Connochaetes taurinus cooksoni
Status: Least Concern
Names: Luangwa wildebeest
Description: This broad-shouldered antelope has a muscular, front-heavy appearance, with a distinctive, robust muzzle. Cookson's wildebeest have a lighter coat than the blue and black wildebeests with dark stripes running down the torso. Both sexes possess a pair of large curved horns.
The Cookson's wildebeest is one of five subspecies and only two are found in Zambia, the Cookson's wildebeest and the Blue wildebeest. Cookson's wildebeest have a lighter coats than the blue and black wildebeests,. 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 Cookson's 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 Cookson's 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 Cookson's wildebeest as being of least concern.
Distribution and Habitat
The Cookson's wildebeest is endemic to Zambia in the northern luangwa valley and on occasion they migrate to Malawi. They are an isolated group of wildebeest and are protected within the luangwa national parks.
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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