I blogged a while back about our visit to the Botsalano Game Reserve near Mafikeng in South Africa. This great little reserve is home to the region’s largest antelope, the Eland, where sizable herds can be seen. We were very excited to have an opportunity to get relatively close to these magnificent animals as they are normally extremely nervous and don’t let you anywhere near them for a photograph. We have previously stalked them on a friend’s farm, hoping to get close enough for a photo or two, but they picked us up every time and took off into the bushes before we could say “Jack Robinson”.
The dry bushy veld around Mafikeng appears to be the ideal habitat for Eland, although they are quite adaptable and can also be found in mountainous grasslands (we’ve seen them high in the Drakensberg) and in woodlands, where they live on grass and leaves. They do need plenty of water and will drink regularly when it is available.
Eland are distinguishable by their straight, twisted horns which grow up to 60cm in length. Males are sometimes more grey in colour, whilst females tend to be golden brown. Both sexes have a dark brown ridge of hair running along their backs. Males have distinctive humps, almost like the Brahman bull, and can weigh up to 700 kgs. Females are slightly smaller, coming in at about 450 kgs. They breed throughout the year, with a single calf being born after a nine month gestation period.
Like Kudu, Eland can jump over high fences or obstacles with ease. Clearing heights of two meters is no problem for them when they feel threatened. Their only natural enemy is the lion, but they remain an extremely nervous breed even when faced with non-threatening situations. In the wild they can live up to twelve years. Males can be aggressive towards each other and compete in major battles.
It was wonderful to sit in the hide at Botselano and watch the Eland come down to the waterhole in great numbers. They certainly are very regal animals and it was such a privilege to spend time observing them.