Taurotragus derbianusgiant eland

Geographic Range

The Giant Eland's home range extends from Senegal through southern Sudan.

Habitat

Giant elands are found in sparse forest during the day, where they take shelter from the heat. They search surrounding savannahs and grasslands for food during the morning and evening when it is cooler. Elands are found in mountainous regions up to altitudes of 4500 meters.

Physical Description

Male giant elands tend to be larger than females, weighing between 400 and 1000 kg. Females weigh between 300 and 600 kg. Shoulder height ranges from 130 to 180 cm, and body length ranges from 210 to 345 cm. Their massive, spiraled horns can extend up to 123 cm on males and 66 cm on females. The giant eland has sandy grey pelage with 8 to 12 whitish vertical stripes on its sides. There are black marks on the ears and hocks, and mature males have a black neck with a large dewlap extending from chin to chest.

  • Range mass
    1000 (high) kg
    2202.64 (high) lb
  • Average mass
    1000 kg
    2202.64 lb
  • Range length
    210 to 345 cm
    82.68 to 135.83 in

Reproduction

Mating usually falls within the wet season. Dominant males will mate with several females. Estrus lasts about 3 days. Gestation lasts 8 to 9 months producing a single calf. Young associate loosely with their mothers. Weaning occurs after 4 to 6 months after which the juvenile leaves its mother permanently, joining a group of other juveniles. Sexual maturity is reached at about 2 years of age. Life expectancy of giant elands is up to 25 years.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Range number of offspring
    1 (low)
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    8 to 9 months
  • Range weaning age
    4 to 6 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    1107 days
    AnAge

Lifespan/Longevity

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    20.3 (high) years
    AnAge

Behavior

Giant elands live in herds of about 25 individuals but larger groups are not uncommon. Migratory movements of herds are determined by the pattern of occurrence of wet seasons. Mature males are usually solitary, and male-female contact can last from a few hours to a few weeks. A dominance hierarchy is determined among males in a herd and influences access to mating opportunities with females. Males use their horns in aggressive interactions to determine position in this hierarchy. Females tend to form their own aggregations, along with calves. Once the calves are weaned they join groups of mixed-sex juveniles for about 2 years. They then join unisex aggregations at sexual maturity.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The diet of the giant eland consists of leaves and fruits from trees, grasses, and herbs. Their long horns are sometimes used to break branches high up on trees to get at the leaves.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Giant elands are a source of large quantities of tender meat, quality hides, and milk with higher protein and fat content than milk from dairy cows. These characteristics, along with the docile nature of the giant eland, have made it the target of domestication efforts in Africa and Russia.

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

None

Conservation Status

Populations of the giant eland have been declining due to excessive hunting, habitat destruction by agricultural expansion, and the spread of rinderpest. Most of the remaining numbers live in the protected park areas of southeastern Senegal.

Contributors

Berke Altan (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5? N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing Company.

Estes, R. D., 1991. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. Berkeley: The University of California Press.

Kindgon, J., 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. California: Academic Press.

Nowak, R. M., 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.