The White-tailed gnu (scientific name: Connochaetes gnou) is also known as black wildebeest. It is one of the two wildebeest species, the other being blue wildebeest. This wonderful creature is found in the southern part of the African continent. This species was almost extinct, because people hunted these animals for their hides and meat; and killed them extensively because they were seen as pests.
Today the White-tailed gnu is largely restricted to protected areas and private reserves. These animals are reintroduced widely in nature reserves in countries like Namibia, Kenya and South Africa. The species was saved from extinction due to timely action by farmers, conservation agencies and responsible governments of the above mentioned countries.
There are around 18,000 black wildebeests today, with around 11,000 in their natural range and around 7,000 outside their natural range (in the farmlands of Namibia). Semi-desert shrublands and the savanna grasslands are the preferred habitats of these animals. They eat the foliage of karroid bushes and shrubs.
Their population is increasing consistently and they are not threatened at the moment. The species is in the "least concern" IUCN category (it was in "vulnerable" category in the year 1994).
These animals are dark brown to black in color and males are usually darker than females. These animals develop shaggier coats during winter and possess a mane and a bushy beard. Their bristly mane is cream to white in color and black at the tips that stands up from their neck. Their beard is usually black in color and can be found along the lower jaw. These animals have a partial white tail.
The White-tailed gnu's horns grow up to 78 cm in length. They curve down, forward and then curve up, thereby appearing like hooks because they project anteriorly, rather than laterally and the base of the horns is widened and flattened. The horns are slightly shorter and thinner in females. The animal's average shoulder height is around 119 cm. A fully grown White-tailed gnu weighs around 160 kg.
These animals exist in herds. The males have the capacity to mate at any time. If the female is uncooperative, the bull may rear in front of her with a full erection in a copulatory display. Usually the receptive female raises her tail when approached by a male, swishing it across his face.
The gestation period is around eight months. A female White-tailed gnu gives birth to one calf at a time. Calving usually peaks in the month of November. The new born calf stands on its four feet just nine minutes after its birth! One month old calves can be found grazing along with the herd. These animals have a life span of 20 years.