When we say that Kenya is full of wildlife diversity, we are in no way exaggerating. Apart from the famous big 5, Kenya is also home to some of the rarest and endangered animals. Among them are the Gerenuk. Here are a few fascinating facts about these equally fascinating creatures.
The Gerenuk are native to the Eastern Africa arid regions, more specifically Somalia and North Eastern Kenya. Consequently, the name Gerenuk was borrowed from the Somali name for the animals ‘gerenuug’ which loosely translates to giraffe-antelope. In Samburu, another area where the animals thrive, they are known as ‘swaratwiga’, which again simply means giraffe-antelope. The name comes from the fact the animals look like a mixture of both antelopes and giraffes. Its head and body are similar to those of gazelles while its long neck resembles that of the giraffe.
As already mentioned, the gerenuk has features that are borrowed from the giraffe and antelope herds. Its body is very similar to that of an antelope. However, its head is much smaller and wedge-like, compared to the thinner, longer one of antelopes. Gerenuks have fairly long necks that are similar to camels or giraffes that help them reach vegetation that is high above the ground. The horns on solely male heads are very unique and ornamental, with spiral carvings on their lengths. The horns are short, thick and s-shaped.
Gerenuks enjoy acacia leaves and will be seen standing straight on their hind legs to reach the trees. In acacia absence, they will feed on almost any other vegetation that is not poisonous.
Gerenuks show a great difference between male and female individuals with the latter appearing to be smaller and lighter in weight. As already mentioned, female gerenuks do not have horns. Male gerenuks are also heavier weighing between 30 and 60 kilos while the females can weigh between 20 and 50. Gerenuks reach sexual maturity early at ages 1 or 1 and a half years. Gestation can go to a maximum of 7 months with only one offspring being produced.
Behaviour and organization
Gerenuks exist in small herds of not more than 6 with adult males preferring a solitary life. Mother gerenuks stay with their offspring until their sexual maturity ages where the young female or male decides to find a mate.
Gerenuks can be classified as hardy animals due to their ability to live in dry areas. In Kenya, they are found in Samburu, Marsabit, Garissa and some parts of Laikipia.