It’s Wildebeest world out there

Tanda Tula wildebeest on the run, Chad Cocking, TimbavatiSome people think they are one of the ugliest animals in the wild. Others think they appear to be put together with all the “spare parts” left behind by other species around them. One thing is for sure though, Africa would not be the same place without them!

Tanda Tula wildebeest by Chad Cocking, Timbavati, Greater Kruger

The Blue wildebeest is an animal that you can almost definitely expect to encounter while on safari in just about every corner of sub-Saharan Africa. And while some really don’t think they are pretty, I love them. What would an early evening game drive be without the classic sound they produce, that also gives them their European name “the Gnu”.

Think along the lines of a nasally sounding, “Gaaaaaaaaanuuuu”.

Let’s jump into some facts about this very special character who is often overlooked in the Greater Kruger.

  • The blue wildebeest is a species that requires an almost constant source of water. They are not like some other African antelope such as the oryx or gemsbok that can go days, possibly even weeks, without water.
  • Interestingly, wildebeest that are found within regions where they can no longer migrate through will very seldom be found further than 12 or so kilometers from a water source. They often have very little care for the clarity of the water they consume.
  • This constant need for water also has an impact on the territorial needs of the dominate bulls. After all, it’s fairly obvious that one stands a much better chance of attracting female herds when your house in order. Without a good water supply, females don’t generally stick around – not such a good thing if you are trying to stand out from the rest!
  • However, once females enter a bull’s territory, they will know very quickly just who this bull is. Not only because he will immediately seek them out, but also because he leaves tell-tale signs that he is there and that he is dominant. Signs such as stomping patches, clear patches in the soil where he stomps daily, leaving behind scuffed earth and piles of dung shaped like bunches of grapes.
  • There is another reason the bulls are so persistent in stomping these patches into existence around their territory. Every time they stomp, a small pedal gland found between their hooves releases a trace amount of scent and pheromone into the soil.
  • It’s this combination of a good territory, a great water and food supply as well as a simply irresistible smelling stomping patch that makes the females want to stick around.
  • This in turn is what leads to baby wildebeest and if you’ve never seen baby wildebeest then you are truly missing out! Not only are they extremely cute, but they are also extremely capable. Some even consider them to be the most precocial (a fancy way of saying developed) youngsters at birth.
  • Within a few minutes of birth the little ones can stand and ten to twenty minutes later they are able to run at just about full tilt! It’s also believed that they can survive on a solids only diet from just a few days old.
  • The reason for these adaptations probably has a lot to do with the migratory nature of the blue wildebeest. The youngsters have to be able to get moving along with the herd as quickly as possible. Additionally, there is a pretty good chance that they will either lose their mothers within the massive herds or worse their mothers may become a meal for something else.

Of course, there is so much more to wildebeest than the above tidbits, I could probably fill a hundred points, but for the sake of your sanity, we will leave it there for today. However, please feel free to drop your questions in the comments below and we will happily get back to you!

Until next time, happy snapping,

Tanda Tula majestic wildebeest by Chad Cocking, Greater Kruger

Tanda Tula blue wildebeest, Chad Cocking, Timbavati

Tanda Tula wildebeest on the plains, Chad Cocking, Timbavati