Connochaetes – Wildebeests

Living on a carpet of grass, they are commonly known as Gnus

Wildebeests, also known as gnus, are fascinating creatures that roam the vast plains of Eastern and Southern Africa. These animals belong to the genus Connochaetes and are represented by two distinct species: the black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou) and the blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus). Despite their common names, both species exhibit a greyish-brown coloration, with physical and behavioral traits that have adapted them perfectly to their savannah and grassland habitats.

Both the black and blue wildebeests are equipped with robust, curved horns that are utilized in defense against predators and during intraspecific battles for dominance. These ungulates are known for their sturdy build and cattle-like appearance, complete with a mane and a beard that can vary in color. The black wildebeest is typically found in the grasslands of South Africa, while the blue wildebeest is more widespread, ranging across the savannahs and plains of both Eastern and Southern Africa.

One of the most remarkable aspects of wildebeest behavior is their migration patterns. The blue wildebeest, in particular, is known for its annual migration, one of the most spectacular wildlife events on the planet. These migrations involve large herds moving in a cyclic pattern across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in search of fresh grazing and water. This journey is fraught with danger, as wildebeests must cross rivers inhabited by crocodiles and evade predators such as lions, hyenas, African wild dogs, cheetahs, and leopards along the way.

Not all wildebeests are migratory, however. Some populations, particularly those of the black wildebeest, maintain more sedentary lifestyles, occupying territories throughout the year. These territories, found at altitudes ranging from 100 to 400 meters (330 to 1,300 feet), provide stable sources of food and water, reducing the need for long migrations.