Eland are the largest of all antelope, with males sometimes weighing over half a tonne. They are thick-set with relatively short legs for their body size and they have short spiral horns which are longer and more slender in females. In colour, they are a uniform tawny/grey and show characteristic white vertical stripes from behind the shoulder to the rump. On their neck dorsally is a short mane, and ventrally a dewlap, which can become very prominent in elderly males. Given their exceptional body size, they display the most remarkable capacity to jump vertically – over 3 metres.
Habitat and Distribution
Eland are widely distributed across southern Africa, south of the equator, being found in a variety of habitats including deserts, grasslands and woodlands.
The IUCN Red List classifies Eland as Least Concern, with a broadly stable population, but with decreases in particular areas. About half of the population occurs in protected areas. In Kenya their meat and milk has a high economic value and they have been semi-domesticated.
Eland are mostly browsers, using their lips to pick off leaves, fruits and seed pods from savannah and woodland trees and shrubs. After the wet season they’ll also move out onto the savannah to graze on new season grasses. Their large body size enables them to store large amounts of water thereby reducing their need to gather around waterholes, as is common for many savannah antelope. The versatility of their diet enables them to move between different ecological zones depending on prevailing environmental conditions.
Breeding and Lifecycle
Eland live in herds that vary in size depending on the season and type of habitat they are in. Breeding occurs year round with a peak of births in spring and summer. Often several females in a herd will give birth within a close period and their calves form creches, and these groups of youngsters can expand to include older juveniles. Most interestingly the females will co-operate with each other to defend the calves against predators like lions and hyenas.
Reference:. Estes, R. (1991). The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. The University of California Press,.
Wilson, D.E. & Mittermeier, R.A (Eds) (2011),, The Handbook of Mammals of the World. Lynx Edicions.