The wildebeests, or gnus, are a type of antelope native to mostly southern Africa. There are two main recognized species, the blue and black wildebeest, though there are others that are variously considered either subspecies of the blue, or their own separate species.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Artiodactyla
Family - Bovidae
Subfamily - Alcelaphinae
Genus - Connochaetes
Species - C. taurinus (Blue wildebeest), C. gnou (Black wildebeest)
Common Names – Wildebeest, Gnu, Brindled Gnu (Blue Wildebeest), White-tailed Gnu (Black Wildebeest)
Wildebeests are dark grey-brown antelopes with horns, broad muzzles, convex curved faces, and thick necks. The blue wildebeest's horns are relatively short, while the black features longer horns that curve downward before turning back upward at the tips.
Female wildebeest gestate for 250 days before giving birth to a single calf. Births in the herd occur nearly simultaneously, all in the span of a few weeks, in the hopes that safety in numbers will help protect the herd from predators.
Blue wildebeests travel in large, migratory herds of up to 1,000 individuals. Black wildebeest groups tend to be much smaller and do not migrate. Wildebeests are an important prey species, and their natural predators include lions, hyenas, wild dogs, crocodiles, leopards and cheetahs.
Wildebeests are important animals for ecotourism, and they help the ecosystem by fertilizing the soil with their excrement.
The blue wildebeest is sometimes separated into four subspecies or separate species entirely: the blue (C. taurinus), Johnston's (C. johnstoni), eastern white-beared (C. albojubatus) and western white-bearded (C. mearnsi) wildebeests.
Both wildebeest species are "Least Concern" species. The blue wildebeest in particular is very widespread across the southern African countries. The western white-bearded wildebeest population is estimated to number almost 1 million individuals. In total there are estimated to be 1.5 million wildebeests, many of them on protected lands. The eastern white-bearded wildebeest is thought to be in decline, though there are still nearly 100,000 individuals, two-thirds of which are in protected areas.
Princeton Field Guides: Bovids of the World, Castello, 2016.
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