Found in Kenya only in Kakamega Forest, they are easily located at night by shining a powerful torch into their reflective, always astonished eyes.
Among those cast in the role of prey in nature are the ox-like wild ruminants, which browse or graze in a wide range of habitats. Better known as antelope or gazelle, they are normally shy, easily startled and, not surprisingly, always alert. Fully mature, the Eland, the heavyweight of Kenya’s fragile pastures, weighs close to a tone. Few could imagine such a massive animal has anything to fear from predators. Yet lion frequently slay this placid bovid.
So perhaps more astonishing then, is not its part as a link in the predatory food chain, but its ability, virtually from a standing position, to leap a height of more than two metres.
Between 1.7 to 1.8 metres at the shoulder, they are the largest of Kenya’s antelope. Their large twisted horns average around 76 centimetres long-the record length being more than one metre. These horns are important for feeding .To collect twigs; they grasp them between the two pedicles (or stalks) breaking them loose with a shake of their head and powerful neck.
For all their size and weight, their powerful chest hidden behind the large and pendulous dewlap, eland are graceful creatures, well-proportioned and elegantly symmetrical.
Common in Kenya in most areas south of the Tana River, eland gather in herds ranging from a few animals up to 200; occasionally much larger. They often mix with zebra. Old bulls live away from the herds on their own. Their life span is from 15 to 20 years.
Despite their size, they are easily tamed. With less fat than beef cattle, they have been domesticated for meat and milk. This process began as early as the19th century when one founding herd was transported to Russia where eland, herded by Ukrainian cowboys, still graze the steppes.
Weighing between 270 and 320 kilos, Greater Kudu can also easily clear two metres at a jump despite their impressive weight. Distinguished by what are among the most magnificent horns in the antelope kingdom ,their spiral antlers average around 1.3 metres long, with the record length a fraction under 1.8 metres. Their acute hearing is accentuated by their ability to turn their large rounded ears in almost any direction. These large, slender, and elegant antelopes, grey in colour with six to eight prominent vertical white stripes on either flank, raise their tail when alarmed –the white underside serving as a warning.
Kudu live out their 12 to 15 years in small herds or families of four to five, although herds of 30 have been seen. In Kenya they are found on many of the rocky, arid hill slopes in the north, along the precipitous sides of the Rift Valley, between Lakes Bogoria and Turkana, and in the areas between Mount Suswa and Lake Magadi and the Nkuruman Escarpment .These antelopes, once rare in Kenya, have made something of a comeback from the rinderpest epidemic, which almost wiped them out at the turn of the last century.
The Lesser Kudu, a smaller. More graceful version of the Greater, displays more stripes –between 11 and 15 –down the flank. They prefer much drier country and can go without water for a long time.They is widespread in eastern and northern Kenya.
Nothing in the antelope world emulates the run of the Bongo, a shy night-time antelope of the mountain forests. It goes into a crouching position and throws up its head, the horn lying flat along its back.In the thick tangle of thicket,trees,and bamboo groves in which it lives, this allows it to move swiftly through the undergrowth. An elusive creature, it is the largest of Kenya’s forest antelopes.
Its bright chestnut coat has 12 to 14 vertical white stripes –fewer than its western African counterpart-down the flanks. With age, the coat darkens.
Unwilling jumpers, they are ashy and easily disturbed. Bongos are browsers, feeding on leaves, shoots of shrubs, and creepers. Rotten wood and bark is a favoured delicacy.
They live in pairs and groups of up to 30 to 35, but old bulls quit the herd to live out the end of their 12 to 14 year lifespan on their own. They are found in the Aberdare, Mount Kenya and Mau forests, but are rarely seen. They may recently have become extinct in the Cherangani Hills.
The Sitatunga, though similar to the Bongo, is unique among antelopes and easily distinguished .For it is a remarkable example of natures virtuosity. The Sitatunga has evolved so that its two-toed, elongated hooves on either foot spread widely to dissipate its weight, which enables it to move about on mats of floating weeds, and appear to walk on water.
Sitatungas have truly amphibious habits. Alarmed, they sink into the water, only the tip of their nostrils showing. Known too, as marsh buck, sitatunga also swim adeptly. Mainly a night antelope, browsing on leaves, twigs, fruits, and tender grass, they live alone in pairs, sometimes in occasional herds of up to fifteen, for about 12 years. They bark when alarmed and communicate by bleating. The only place they can be seen in Kenya is in the tiny Saiwa National Park, not far from Kitale, near the Cherangani Hills, where the wildlife authorities have thoughtfully provided tree-top platforms from which visitors can watch them.
Though aficionados of the bush have long relished venison-chops of Thomson’s gazelle, marinated,are a specialty of the house in one of Nairobi’s international hotels- few would bother with Water buck .To skin these creatures requires a skill denied most butchers or hunters. The skins have scent glands which give off an unpleasant musky smell so powerful that, long after they have left; it serves as a tell-tale indication of their previous presence. And unless exceptional care is taken in dressing, this musk taints the Water buck meat making it unpalatable.
But Water buck are elegant antelope. Their majestic horns are unmistakable. Around an average of 70 centimetres long, the record length is a fraction over one metre.
With a short, glossy coat, brown to grayish-brown, the Common Water buck is distinct from its kindred race, the Defassa Water buck, because of the white crescent across the rump. The Defassa has pure white buttocks. Water buck, which are grazers, are found in woodlands, flood plains, and clearings, usually close to water. But although they frequently hide in it, they are truly land animals.
Seen from the side, poised and alert before bounding away, it is easy to imagine the Oryx as the mythical unicorn. In profile the splendid horns merge as one to match exactly the images drawn so long ago in the Middle Ages. Long and slender-looking, these are powerful weapons of both defense and attack, a bit like the duelists epee, well-suited to a challenge to the death in the dusty dry lands, as many a lion has found to its cost.
Heads down between their forelegs, oryx wield their very long horn with dexterity in the savage cut and thrust of the wild, often impaling their victims with such force the horns pass clean through the body. The horns average out 70 centimetres, with a record length of more than a metre.
Some experts suggest that the distinctive black and white facial markings of the oryx actually serve as a warning to predators to steer clear. Usually seen in groups of between 10 and 12, oryx live out their 12 to 15 years on a varied diet of grass, plants, leaves,shoots,wild melons, succulent roots,tubers,and bulbs. These grazers can go long periods without water. Unlike most other antelopes they do not jump often –though they can do so with prodigious power when needed-preferring to creep under obstacles rather than leap to them.
The Beisa Oryx are found in Kenya north of the Tana.The Fringe-eared Oryx, marked by the distinctive tassel on the end of their ears, and heavier and rather brown coats, are found south of the Tana.
Red-brown skin glowing with iridescent sheen, that lumpy-looking creature standing solitary guard on a mound is the Topi, familiar sentinel in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. The burnished skin seems almost the result of too liberal an application of polish. For a creature killed as often as the Topi, the sentinel is a necessity. This prolific species, to a lesser degree than the wildebeest, migrates from Serengeti into the Mara, and is prime flesh for all the predators which follow the migration, particularly savoured by the lion.
Large and robust, the shoulders of the topi are noticeably higher than their rump, giving them the familiar hartebeest look. An overall reddish-brown to purplish-red, they have distinct dark patches on their face, upper forehead, legs, hips, and thighs.
Jousting males, each of which has its own territory, drop to their knees and clash horns. Rutting males mark out their territory with dung heaps and by rubbing facial and foot glands on the ground. They then take guard on the nearest high ground, usually an old termite mount.
Pure grazers, they can go without water for a long time if grass is green .They also eat grasses disdained by other antelope. They are swift runners, making off with a bounding gait.Topi are found in the Mara, and north of the Tana River and east of Lake Turkana.The related species, Tiang, occur on Lake Turkanas north –westernmost shores.
Much Topi behavior also characterizes the Hartebeest. Males keep watch from knolls or high ground after defining their territory and winning the courtship battle for a harem. But for a good part of their 12 to 15 years, hartebeest bulls are celibate. The losers form bachelor herds and old bulls are cast out to live a solitary existence until they die.
The most common, Cokes Hartebeest, is around 1.2 metres high at the shoulder, and weighs around 60 to 90 kilos. Two other species are Jackson's and Hunters; the former being larger, the latter smaller.
The long head, with the massive brow which looks like a wall plaque, forms an ideal setting or the dramatic horns-the Cokes averaging just over 35 centimetres.
The record length for this species is just under 60 centimetres .Sandy fawn in colour, the hump-shouldered hartebeest wander around looking completely out of proportion. Their long heads and massive brows give them a doltish look.Placid, except when rutting, hartebeest bulls snort when alarmed.
Cokes are widespread in southern Kenya. Jackson's are found only in the extreme north-west and Hunters unmistakable because of the shape of their horns and the white chevron between the eyes; occur between the Tana River and Somalia. One small group has been trans located to Tsavo National Park.
Kenya’s wildlife has a diversity of mammals, insect, flowers, trees, birds, amphibian which attracts tourists in different national parks, national reserves and private sanctuaries which are accessible through road, train, scheduled flights, private charter flights . There are airports, airstrips and airfields in Kenya where flights do depart and arrive dropping and picking tourists. Not all these wildlife are found in one place but when you plan for a safari contact your preferred travel agent or tour operator who will make a safari itinerary for you based on your budget. We have budget, luxury accommodation, flights, road transport which one can choose from segmented into individual, organized and private depending with you need.Scenic,sightseeing ,filming and aerial survey & photography flights and safaris which will enable tourists view different types of wildlife when on safari in Kenya.
Anthony A Juma is the Editor and Director Commercial & Flights Operations at Wings Over Africa Aviation Limited. |