Gerenuk Fact File
Credit: Public Domain
Wild 8 years
Captive 13 years
Africa’s Long-Legged Antelope!
The gerenuk may also be known as the giraffe-necked antelope due to their long neck which is used to reach leaves on which they will feed.
They are found across areas of Africa where they can be found on treeless plains and savanna habitats.
Females will attempt to mate when food is at its most abundant. Males spend their time seeking out as many females with which they can mate during this breeding season.
They are threatened by hunting and habitat destruction.
Read on to learn more about these magnificent mammals.
What does the Gerenuk look like?
The gerenuk is easily noticeable by its long neck and legs. They have light brown or tawny coloured fur. On the underbelly the gerenuk is white.
Around the eyes is a white rim. The end of the tail has a black tuft.
On their head are scimitar shaped horns which are black in colour.
A gerenuk female stands 80-100cm (31.5-39.4in) tall. The male is taller standing 89-105cm (35-41in) tall. They will measure about 1.5m (5ft). The male gerenuk weighs about 45kg (99lb) while the female weighs 30kg (66lb).
How does the Gerenuk survive in its habitat?
The long legs and neck of the gerenuk allow this species to access leaves higher up on trees which other species may not be able to access.
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What does the Gerenuk eat?
The gerenuk is a herbivore. They browse on a range of leaves with one individual shown to have eaten 80 different types of leaves. Their long legs give them an advantage over most antelope as they can eat different plant species. The gerenuk feeds on acacias and other thorny plants mostly. They will also consume flowers, fruits and buds.
The gerenuk does not need to drink in the traditional sense. Instead their moisture requirements are met by the water content in their food.
Learn more about the Gerenuk in this video from Community Wildlife Fund on YouTube
Where do you find the Gerenuk?
Africa is the native home of the gerenuk. Here they can be found in the following countries – Tanzania, Kenya, Southern Somalia, Ethiopia and Eretria. In the past populations of this species could be found in Egypt and Northern Sudan.
Where can the Gerenuk survive?
Open habitats such as treeless plains, savanna and dry deserts are the home of the gerenuk.
Credit: Public Domain
How does the Gerenuk produce its young?
Due to their adaptive eating patterns the gerenuk will generally mate when the food is most abundant.
When the male encounters a female she will lift her nose and place her ears against her head. This is a defensive gesture. The male then displays himself sideways showing off the neck and horns. If the female shows she is receptive he will mark her with his scent. He then begins following her and tastes her urine at each opportunity. Once she is ready to mate he will taste the difference. The male will repeat the process with as many females as possible.
After 7 months gestation the female is ready to give birth and she will leave the herd. She finds an isolated spot and gives birth. The calf stays here for the first few weeks of its life. The female will visit 2 or 3 times a day so she can provide milk and eat the calf’s waste so no smell is present.
When it is big enough the calf will go off with its mother. She will care for a female calf till 1 year of age while a male calf requires 1 ½ years of care to become sexually mature. At this time they will leave to establish a new territory which generally takes them till they are 3 ½ years old.
If the mother has a female she will breed the next year. If it is a male she will normally not breed in the next year.
What does the Gerenuk do during its day?
Male gerenuks live a solitary lifestyle. The females will create a band of 10 females which is generally made up of related females. Young males have been seen in bachelor herds roaming together till they find their own territories.
The males territory is marked using their scent. If another dominant male is found in this space by the male he will generally leave it alone. A young male looking for a territory is normally scared off though.
Gerenuks emit vocalisations including buzzing, whistles and a loud bleat. The buzzing is used if they are alarmed, the whistle when annoyed and when in extreme danger they bleat.
Credit: Public Domain
Predators and Threats
What stops the Gerenuk from surviving and thriving?
Predators of the gerenuk include cheetahs, leopards, lions, hunting dogs, hyenas, serval, caracal, ratel and eagles.
Populations of the gerenuk are believed to be in decline. This species is shy and difficult to count making establishing a formal estimate of their numbers difficult.
These animals have come under threat through hunting and destruction of their habitat for charcoal and firewood.
Parts of their range are also subject to civil unrest presenting another threat.
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‘Wallers gazelle’ is another name for the gerenuk.
In Somali language gerenuk means ‘giraffe necked antelope.’
The gerenuk has been described as very humble due to the way they always help each other. Many tribal tales crown them the ‘queen of humbleness.’
Credit: Fabrice Stoger, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. 2016. Litocranius walleri. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T12142A50190292. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T12142A50190292.en. Downloaded on 15 May 2020.
Payne, J. 2003. “Litocranius walleri” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 15, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Litocranius_walleri/
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