AFRICA’S CUTEST ANTELOPE
As much as we love the Big Five and all the other popular wildlife here at Pembury, we have a soft spot for those little creatures that don’t often shine in the safari spotlight (see the Little Five). The Gerenuk is one of these animals. It looks like a miniature springbok and giraffe combined into one. It sent all our tour consultants, especially Anya, into cuteness overdrive.
The Gerenuk is a part of the gazelle family and classified as an antelope. They are most commonly found in Tanzania, Kenya, southern Somalia, Ethiopia and Eretria. They are 80 to 100 centimetres in height with extremely long necks, small heads and big eyes and ears. Here are five facts about these unusual (and adorable) little animals.
1. Unusual Eating Habits
Unlike other antelopes who eat by grazing, the gerenuk often stands on its two hind legs and uses its two front legs to graze from tree branches. By standing up like this in combination with their long necks mean they can sometimes reach plants up to 2 metres (6 feet) high.
2. No Water Required
The gerenuk never has to drink water. Like giraffe, the plants they eat contain enough water to prevent them actually needing to drink it. This is what allows them to survive in desert areas.
3. Interesting Glands
Because its appearance wasn’t unusual enough, the gerenuk also has unusual glands. Like many other gazelles, they have preorbital glands in front of their eyes. These glands emit a tar-like substance to mark territory. More uniquely, they also have scent glands on their knees and in the split of their hooves.
4. Good Mamas
The gerenuk females are extremely caring mothers. They clean their young immediately after birth, feeds them two to three times a day and eats any leftover food to remove traces of scent that might attract predators. They also speak to their fawns in gentler tones, with soft bleating noises.
5. Threatened Population
Despite remaining under the radar, these little antelope are currently listed as ‘Near Threatened’ in terms of conservation status. Habitat loss and fragmentation caused by people has led to a decline in their population. There are only 95 000 remaining across four countries.