Blue Wildebeest Fact File
Wild 20 years
Record 24.3 years
The blue wildebeest is a member of the bovid family which is found across the southern areas of Africa. It is one of two species of wildebeest with the other being the black wildebeest.
These animals are grazers which spend their day feeding on short grasses and some succulents.
Blue wildebeest have become known for the long migration undertaken by some of these animals. During this they travel long distances to reach sources of food and water.
Unfortunately the building of fences to protect water for human use along with hunting have led to declines in the population.
Learn more about these amazing animals by reading on below.
The blue wildebeest is covered by a silvery grey coat with some brown fur fading towards the rear. On the neck is a mane of black fur which hangs down over the forehead. Under the neck is a beard of black hair. Towards the front of the body are dark, vertical stripes running vertically down their body.
At the end of the body is a long tail measuring 35-56cm (14-22in) long. This ends in a tuft of long hairs and is colored black.
In males the horns may reach a length of up to 80cm (32in) long. They protrude out to the sides of the head before curving upwards and coming to a point. Both the males and females are equipped with horns. Females use there’s for defense to protect their young. Males often have thicker horns than females.
An adult blue wildebeest will measure 1.5-2.4m(5-7.75ft) with a weight of 118-275kg(260-600lbs). At the shoulder they stand 1.5m (5ft) tall. Males tend to be slightly larger than females.
Wildebeest are herbivores which graze for grasses and succulents. Their loose lips are specially adapted for feeding on large amounts of short grass.
They require water at least once every two days.
Africa is the native home of the blue wildebeest. Here they can be found in Angola; Botswana; Eswatini; Mozambique; Namibia; South Africa; Tanzania; Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Humans have introduced this species outside their range such as in the east of Zimbabwe and to private farms in Namibia.
The species is considered to be extinct within Malawai.
They make their home within the short grass plains and nearby Acacia savanna, bushland or woodland in Africa. Blue wildebeest tend to be found in drier areas.
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At the start of the breeding season males establish a small territory which they defend against entry from other males. This territory is defended through calls, posturing and pushing. While most displays are ceremonial they may engage in actual fights where they lock horns. They will then mate within any females present within this territory.
Young males may be tolerated as they move through the territory as long as they exhibit submission through holding their head low.
Breeding is timed so that they females will give birth to their calf prior to the rainy season when food will be plentiful.
Females tend to give birth to a single calf each breeding season. The calf will bleat and the mother replies with a low similar to that of a domestic cow.
Within two weeks of birth the calves can move as part of the herd.
Sexual maturity is achieved by three years old for females and four years old for males.
While some populations will remain in the same spot year round many are nomadic and will move through their habitat to find food.
Blue wildebeest form herds. Males form a bachelor herd in which they will live from one year old until three or four years old. Once males become of breeding age they no longer associate.
Males which are competing create a call which sounds like genu from which their secondary name, gnu, is derived.
Over half of the day of a wildebeest may be spent resting.
When running the blue wildebeest will reach speeds of up to 64km/h (40mph).
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the blue wildebeest include Nile crocodiles which provide the greatest threat to this species when they attempt to cross rivers during their migration. Other threats include lions, cheetahs, hyenas and hunting dogs.
Animals in larger herds often fall prey to predators more often than those in smaller herds. This is though to be an effect of a decrease in vigilance due to a feeling of safety from the larger herd.
When a predator is sighted members of the herd will stamp and let out a loud alarm call.
As females all calve around the same time it helps the calves to survive as there are too many for the predators to hunt.
Numbers of the blue wildebeest have been reduced through the spread of humans, competition with livestock, removal of water sources and hunting for meat and for sport. The introduction of livestock has also spread disease which affects the blue wildebeest.
Fences have blocked their access to water sources causing them to pass away.
Their population is currently believed to be stable. Estimates of their population sit around 1.5 million.
The blue wildebeest is also known as the common wildebeest, brindled gnu or blue gnu.
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