The Common Eland (Taurotragus oryx) is one of the two species in the genus Taurotragus (the other being the Giant Eland, T. derbianus). 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.
Both male and female Common Elands have spiraled horns and a pendulous dewlap that begins at the throat (rather than under the chin, as in the Giant Eland), which in older males may hang like a curtain to below the knees. Males develop a dark crest of tufted hair on their foreheads. Historically, the Common Eland ranged widely across southern and East Africa, but it now occupies only around half of the historical range. Common Elands are associated with woodland and woodland-savannah, although they are relatively flexible in their habitat preferences. In the late 1990s, the total Common Eland population was estimated to be around 136,000. This species is now extinct in Burundi and declining in some parts of its range, but in general seems relatively stable. Around half the remaining individuals are in protected areas and perhaps another third on private ranches. Because of the value of the value of this animal to trophy hunters, poaching can be a significant problem in some areas, although habitat loss is currently the greatest threat. Semi-domesticated populations are (or have been) established in Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Russia, Ukraine, Great Britain, and the United States..
Despite their name, Giant Elands are actually generally smaller than Common Elands, but their horns are substantially larger (as are their ears).
Elands are widely hunted and this hunting pressure, in combination with habitat loss, has led to their diappearance from much of their former range, although Common Elands are still widely distributed and well represented in national parks and are even semi-domesticated as exotics in several countries.
(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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