The Giant (or Derby's) Eland (Taurotragus derbianus) is one of the two species in the genus Taurotragus, the other being the Common Eland (T. oryx). Based largely on molecular and chromosomal studies (e.g., Fernández and Vrba 2005; Willows-Munro et al. 2005; Rubes et al. 2008), some authorities subsume the genus Taurotragus within Tragelaphus. The most striking feature of elands is their massive size, especially of the males.
Despite their name, Giant Elands are actually generally smaller than Common Elands, but their horns are substantially larger (as are their ears). The Giant Eland has a conspicuous dewlap that begins under the chin (rather than at the throat, as in the Common Eland) and ends mid-neck. Giant Elands have much narrower habitat requirements than do Common Elands, being limited to broadleaf woodland savannahs, generally those dominated by the leguminous tree Isoberlinia doka, which makes up a major part of their diet. The Giant Eland is uncommon in grassland savannahs. This species once occurred in a continuous band across Central Africa from Gambia to the White Nile. It is now extinct in Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, and Togo. Today, as a result of hunting and habitat loss, Giant Elands are found only in three disjunct populations in (1) southeastern Senegal, northern Guinea, southwestern Mali, and possibly eastern Guinea-Bissau; (2) northern Cameroon, southwestern Chad, and possibly eastern and central Nigeria; and (3) Central African Republic, southeastern Chad, southwestern Sudan, and possibly northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo and northwestern Uganda. The total population is probably around 15,000 to 20,000. Only 200 or fewer individuals remain in West Africa, mainly in Senegal. Hunting has eliminated this species from much of its former range and a 1983 rinderpest epidemic took a serious toll on the global population.
(Kingdon 1997; Leslie 2011)
- Fernández, M.H. and E.S. Vrba. 2005. A complete estimate of the phylogenetic relationships in Ruminantia: a dated species-level supertree of the extant ruminants. Biological Reviews 80: 269-302.
- Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego.
- Leslie, D.M., Jr. 2011. Genus Taurotragus. Pp. 617-618 in: Wilson, D.E. and Mittermeier, R.A., eds. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 2. Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Rubes, J., S. Kubickova, E. Pagacova, H. Cernohorska, D. Di Berardino, M. Antoninova, J. Vahala, and T.J. Robinson. 2008. Phylogenomic study of spiral-horned antelope by cross-species chromosome painting. Chromosome Research 16(7): 935-947.
- Willows-Munro, S., T.J. Robinson, and C.A. Matthee. 2005. Utility of nuclear DNA intron markers at lower taxonomic levels: Phylogenetic resolution among nine Tragelaphus spp. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 35: 624-636.
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