Tucked away in a far corner of South Africa, near the bustling town of Mafikeng, is a little game reserve called Botsalano. Although it isn’t one of the more famous game reserves in the country, it definitely deserves a mention because it is actually full of pleasant surprises. Not only are the bush campsites there quite magnificent, but we saw an abundance of game that included animals not commonly found elsewhere.
I wrote a while back about seeing Blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), and at that time we didn’t have any decent photos of the Black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou) which is a similar looking gnu, but distinguishable by its white tail, smaller build and horns that curve forwards. Well, our stay at Botsalano rewarded us with wonderful sightings of these animals and we came away with many pictures to add to our collection. Black wildebeest are typically only found in small areas in South Africa, so it was a treat to see so many of them in one place.
The Black wildebeest is not stripy like its Blue relative. Adults are dark brown, whilst calves are a much lighter colour. Their white tails make them easy to identify, as do their sloping down backs, which are typical of the gnu’s. They sound similar too, as they also converse with snorts and grunts that sound like the word “gnu”.
The open grassland in Botsalano suits them perfectly and there is sufficient water there for their needs. Their diet consists mostly of grass and dry bush. We saw them in typical herds of between five and fifty. These herds usually consist of males, females and young ones, but sometimes male-only herds are formed as well. Males are territorial and during the breeding season they can be quite aggressive protecting their females and young.
Because they are only found in isolated areas, Black wildebeest don’t typically have any enemies and can expect to live for about twenty years. Unfortunately once they are sold to farmers or relocated to small reserves out of their natural areas, they can fall prey to the same predators that hunt the Blue wildebeest, namely lions, leopards, wild dogs and hyaenas.