Connochaetes taurinus taurinus
Status: Least Concern
Names: common wildebeest, white-bearded gnu or brindled gnu
Description: This broad-shouldered antelope has a muscular, front-heavy appearance, with a distinctive, robust muzzle. Young blue wildebeest are born tawny brown, and begin to take on their adult coloration at the age of 2 months. The adults' hues range from a deep slate or bluish-gray to light gray or even grayish-brown. Both sexes possess a pair of large curved horns.
The blue wildebeest is one of five subspecies and only two are found in Zambia, the Blue wildebeest and the Cookson's wildebeest. The common name "blue wildebeest" refers to the conspicuous, silvery-blue sheen of the coat, while the alternative name "gnu" originates from the name for these animals used by the Khoikhoi people, a native pastoral people of southern Africa. The Khoikhoi may have named them this due to the "Ga-Nuu" sound they make.
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Ecology and Behaviour
The blue wildebeest is a herbivore, feeding primarily on the short grasses which commonly grow on light, and alkaline soils that are found in savanna grasslands and on plains. When grass is scarce, it will also eat the foliage of shrubs and trees. Wildebeest commonly associate with plains zebras as the latter eat the upper, less nutritious grass canopy, exposing the lower, greener material which the wildebeest prefer. The blue wildebeest is mostly active during the morning and the late afternoon, with the hottest hours of the day being spent in rest. Bulls mark the boundaries of their territories with heaps of dung, secretions from their scent glands, and certain behaviors. Body language used by a territorial male includes standing with an erect posture, profuse ground pawing, and horning, frequent defecation, rolling and bellowing, and the sound "ga-noo" being produced. When competing over territory, males grunt loudly, paw the ground, make thrusting motion with their horns, and perform other displays of aggression.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources rates the blue wildebeest as being of least concern.
Distribution and Habitat
The blue wildebeest can be found in southern Africa in the southern and western province of Zambia in the liuwa flood plains and along the Zambezi river, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique (north of the Orange River) and southern Angola. In Zambia in November every year, enormous herds migrate across the Luiwa plains.
Interaction with humans
Major human-related factors affecting populations include large-scale deforestation, the drying up of water sources, the expansion of settlements and poaching. Diseases of domestic cattle such as sleeping sickness can be transmitted to the animals and take their toll. Traditionally, blue wildebeest have been hunted for their hides and meat, the skin making good-quality leather, though the flesh is coarse, dry, and rather tough. They can compete with domestic livestock for grazing and water and can transmit fatal diseases like rinderpest to cattle and cause epidemics among animals. They can also spread ticks, lungworms, tapeworms, flies, and paramphistome flukes.
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