A cow eland in the Nairobi National Park, an oasis for the largest antelope in the world.
These animals are your writer’s particular favourite animals, large, beautiful, gentle & perfectly adapted to living in the vagaries of Africa’s savannah ecosystems, of which the NNP is a perfect example.
Grazing 25% of their food in the scarce wet seasons, making use of the abundant grass resource when it is available & then browsing in the dry season, or in dry areas, eland traditionally wandered over huge areas at will……
An eland bull- a truly massive animal -heavier even than a buffalo according to Kingdon-& formidable, as demonstrated by bulls’ ability to graze in long grass areas without fear of lion predation.
Generally however, the eland’s primary response to danger is to run away or jump: they are spectacular leapers able to jump over fences with effortless ease (especially the cows:bulls are a little too massive!)
We have 500 + eland in the park & I see this population rising over time as their shyness & alertness prevents them from wandering out into the fast-diminishing ‘dispersal area’ outside of the park, which is increasingly humanised by the day & where delicious eland meat is at a premium in a country where the poor cannot afford to but meat in butcheries = plenty of illegal hunting for bushmeat.
In the park they are safe…..& to successfully breed as well…..
A bull eland looks down at the writer’s cottage in the Silole Sanctuary, just outside the park.
A bull eland browsing. Not only can they make use of available plant nutrients, eland are very efficient in their use of water & can live in arid areas or exist without drinking for long periods . Compare their dry droppings to the wet pats of cattle…..
A bull & youngsters, which have an intense attraction for one another & so are found in (usually large-especially in NNP) nursery herds where they seem to communally suckle from lactating cows . ( Might an expert enlighten us on this thesis?)
Eland milk is one of the richest milks in nature (like whale milk) & young eland grow rapidly as result.
Africa has not been innovative in using it’s wildlife eg. hippoes are the creatures which are most efficient in turning grass into meat (protein) in comparison to inefficient & resource gobbling domestic animals. In contrast,eland have been domesticated on the steppes of Russia, where their milk is fed to the sick in local hospitals…..
Long live these elegant & beautifully adapted animals in Nairobi National Park…….