This long necked member that is part of the Gazelle branch (Antelope family) has been named in an incredibly fitting manner. Gerenuk means ‘Giraffe-necked’ in Somali and with its unusually long neck for an Antelope.
These delicate looking animals prefer to live surrounded by vegetation they can eat, typically thorn bush and shun spending large amounts of time in open plains. They are native to countries such as Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania.
What Sets Them Apart?
Their distinctive neck makes them easily to spot from the other Gazelle’s. The males have black horns that bend in an S shape while females don’t. Males are also slightly taller than the females. The Gerenuk has a rather small head in comparison to its body, but its large ears and eyes help balance its proportions.
Their coat is a darker, more reddish brown on the top which suddenly changes to a lighter brown, and then switches again to give them a white belly. Their tails appear longer than they actually are due to the long black hair. The Gerenuk have long, thin legs that come in very useful in combination with their long necks for grabbing leaves from tall branches.
A Unique Style of Grazing
The Gerenuk’s narrow face allows them to get at leaves on thorny plants. Much like the Giraffe that they’ve been named for, they can also reach higher up on the trees than others. They are able to stand only on their hind legs due to their wedged shaped hooves and well developed back legs. They are the only member of the antelope family that can do this amazing feat.
Due to their diet that is full of vegetation, they rarely need to venture out in search of water. The plants they eat have enough water within their leaves to sustain them. This beneficial side effect of being a herbivore that doesn’t need much water means they can live in dry areas, and even the desert!
How They Live
This shy creature lives in small herds, typically ranging from 2-8. It’s also not uncommon to see lone Gerenuk’s roaming around, both male and female. When they are spotted or notice they are being watched their first action is to stand completely still while under cover.
When they finally do decide to flee, they’ll trot away instead of gallop, sometimes even bouncing away with its legs held stiff.
Like other species of Gazelle, the Gerenuk also has glands near their eyes that give off a scented sticky substance that they leave on twigs and plants to establish their territory. Generally, their herds are fairly fluid with only mother and child being constant. Females will happily co-exist together regardless of age, and males will live together in small groups before they become more territorial as they get older. Males will group with females if they are permitted. When they are not territorial, Gerenuk’s like to move their home occasionally, though territorial males will remain within their marked out territory.
The Gerenuk calves are kept hidden away from the rest of the herd for a few weeks after birth. The mother will always come back a few times through the day to feed it and will make sure there is no scent that will lead predators to their babies.
Looking Out on Their Behalf
They can help provide the protection the Gerenuk needs to avoid the effects of overhunting in other parts of the region. They are severely impacted by the spread of human settlements, roads and farm land which lead to the Gerenuk being cut off from the land they like.
Human activity is making it harder for them to find shelter from predators. The effect of human activity has pushed their status into near threatened. Luckily for the Gerenuk, the effect of drought and overgrazing by domesticated livestock has caused the spread of the thorn bush which is part of their diet.
Ensuring the continued survival of the Gerenuk is based on educating communities and protecting the environment the Gerenuk calls their home.
The Morani preserve are working to look after the timid Gerenuk and give visitors the chance to see them in the wild, if it’s possible to catch a glimpse of them hiding within the bushes.
XPO² are working with the Morani Preserve to provide the Gerenuk with a comfortable living environment where they no longer have to worry about the approaching activity of humans.