THE SNORTING OF THE “BLUE WILDEBEEST”, VISIBLE THROUGH MY BEDROOM WINDOW, IS MY WAKE-UP CALL EVERY MORNING! THIS IS MY VIEW, THIS IS MY PLACE, THIS IS MY LIFE!
GROENLAND GAMELODGE, LIMPOPO PROVINCE, SOUTH AFRICA.
BLUE WILDEBEEST – Connochaetes taurinus
Although these animals have never approached extinction like the black wildebeest, the numbers are a far cry from the massive herds which roamed the plains of the early habitat, particularly East Africa. There are, however, still areas of fairly large herd aggregations. In this sub-region, Botswana still sees large herd movements. Their preferred habitat is open grassland, floodplain grassland, and bush savanna, but also utilizes light woodland. Water is an essential component of their habitat.
They are diurnal and are most active during the morning and later afternoon, resting in the heat of the day. On cooler days are active all days are active all day and also active on moontlight nights. The territorial male will indulge in a variety of territorial displays to suit the occasion. It will dissuade an interloper with a threat display, involving erect neck and forward direct head and a rocking-horse catering motion forward, which is usually sufficient to send the other male off. Males will herd females with a lowered head, and streaming tail, grunting and lowing. Young females may stay in the herd for life but males are sent off to join bachelor groups. Both sexes carry horns with those of the female being less robust.
Predators are lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, wild dog and for calves, also black-backed jackal. Great mortality through drowning and trampling has been recorded in the massive migrations. This provides a feast for predators and scavengers, which follow the herds to pick out the weak and young. The wildebeest is a prey favoured by the lion above the zebra. The zebra, it is believed, senses this and associates with the wildebeest herds for the safety the association provides.
Females in oestrus move restlessly from one territorial bull to another, mating with several. Copulation is usually at night. One precocial calf is born and must be able to move with the herd at a very early age if it is to escape the predators.
Food: They are grazers, eating usually only very short grass. Their spatulate shaped muzzle allows them to fee on the very short grass. They particularly favour newly-sprouted grass after fire.