The generuk according to MammalMAP
Also known as the Waller's gazelle, the gerenuk (Litocranius walleri), call the dry shrubland of East Africa home. The Somalian word ’Gerenuk’ means ‘Giraffe-necked’ – and it’s easy to see how these antelopes earned this name! Their long necks allow them to reach branches 6-8 ft. off the ground. They extend this reach even further by standing upright on their hind legs while feeding. The Gerenuk once had a wide distribution in Africa, but are currently thought to occur only in southern Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and North-eastern Tanzania. For more info visit the MammalMAP virtual museum or blog.
Litocranius walleri inhabits the dry brushy region of east Africa from the Serengeti plain of Tanzania north along the coast through Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and into southern Somalia. The species was once found in eastern Egypt and northeastern Sudan as well.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
The long neck and long, thin legs of gerenuks are their defining features; these make them one of the world's most easily recognized antelopes. The coat is of a short, fine, glossy hair that is evenly distributed over the whole body. The pelage is a pale tawny brown with white along the breast, underbelly, and inner legs. There are small, dark patches of fur on the knees of the forelegs and at the end of the tail. The head is long and narrow with medium-sized ears, and the cheek teeth and masseter muscle are reduced. On the head there is a dark patch around the eyes that pales as it goes outward until it forms a white rim. Only males of this species have head ornamentation in the form of scimitar shaped horns ranging from 25 to 44 centimeters in length. Both sexes of L. walleri are of similar size but the males are more muscular than females causing them to outweigh them. Mass ranges from 29 to 58 kg, total body length from 140 to 160 cm, and tail length from 220 to 350 mm.
Range mass: 29 to 58 kg.
Range length: 140 to 160 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: ornamentation
The habitat that Litocranius walleri occupies varies from the treeless plains of Tanzania in the southern reaches of its range to the dry high deserts of Kenya. They are adaptable and do well in a variety of habitats, provided there is a good supply of succulent plants.
Range elevation: 0 to 3,000 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland
Habitat and Ecology
Litocranius walleri is well adapted for obtaining forage from their arid habitats. Their long necks, long legs, and the ability to stand on their hind legs allows L. walleri to obtain tree leaves that are out of reach for most other antelope species. This permits gerenuks to be selective in the foods they eat and to be efficient browsers of herbaceous plants. Over 80 different species of plants have been found in a single individuals stomach. L. walleri does not drink free standing water, they instead rely on water taken in when they eat succulent plants.
Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
Although rare, gerenuk contribute to nutrient cycling in the ecosystems in which they live through their foraging activity. They also act as prey species for large predators.
Several anti-predator adaptations have evolved in Litocranius walleri for their survival both while they are juveniles and as adults. Young L. walleri remain motionless while hiding in the bushes and tall grasses not far from their mothers during the day when the mother is feeding. As adults they show an adaptation that is more common to forest dwelling antelopes than to desert-adapted ones, they freeze at the aproach of danger. They are preyed on by a diverse set of large predators found throughout their range.
- cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)
- leopards (Panthera pardus)
- lions (Panthera leo)
- cape hunting dogs (Lycaon pictus)
- hyenas (Hyaenidae)
- servals (Leptailurus serval)
- ratel (Mellivora capensis)
- caracals (Caracal caracal)
- large eagles (Accipitridae)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The average life span of female Litocranius walleri is slightly longer than males. Their lifespan in the wild averages 10 - 12 years.
Status: wild: 10 to 12 years.
Status: captivity: 13.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
The mating ritual of Litocranius walleri is complex. When a male encounters a potential mate the female will raise her nose into the air and pull her ears close to the head as a sign of defensiveness, meanwhile the male displays his horns and neck in a sideways pose. If the female is receptive then the male will mark the female on the thigh with the contents of his preorbital gland and contiue to follow her around, a form of mate guarding. As the male follows the female he continually uses his forelegs to kick the female in her thigh region. When the female atempts to urinate the male performs the flehmen test or lip curl test in which he samples her urine. Once the female comes into estrous the male will notice the difference in the females urine and mating will begin. Males will attempt to mate with as many females as they can. (Macdonald, 1984)
Mating System: polygynous
Gerenuk females breed every one to two years, depending on the sex of their previous year's offspring. Males are dependent on their mothers for longer than are females. Reproduction and births occur throughout the year and may depend on the quality of available nutrition. Females give birth to usually one young after a gestation period of about 165 days.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs throughout the year.
Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .
Average number of offspring: 1.
Range gestation period: 6.77 to 7 months.
Range weaning age: 12 to 18 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 to 2 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 to 2 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
Average number of offspring: 1.
Female Litocranius walleri usually give birth to one young, rarely two. The young are precocial and begin to walk within minutes of birth. The female continues to look after her young until she weans them. Young females get weaned when they reach one year of age but male offspring are not weaned until they reach at least one and a half years old and stay with their mothers until after they are two.
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; post-independence association with parents
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Litocranius walleri
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Litocranius walleri
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Litocranius walleri is a game animal, even though its not very common, and as a game animal it is protected in most of its range in the form of tags or permits. There are many parks offering sanctuary for them within their range and many biologists and game managers studying them so they are not considered to be at significant risk currently.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Assuming an average correction factor of 3.5 for undercounting bias in aerial surveys, and that areas for which population estimates are unavailable support an average density of 0.5/km² where the species is known to be common and 0.05/km² elsewhere, East (1999) produced an estimated total population of 95,000. The largest surviving populations occur in south-western Ethiopia and the northern and eastern rangelands of Kenya. Population trend is generally stable in protected areas, with a few notable exceptions such as the declining population of Tsavo National Park, and gradually decreasing elsewhere.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There are no adverse effects of L. walleri on humans.
Litocranius walleri has been a game animal in Africa for over 200 years. Although they are limited in supply for hunters and have a limited range, they continue to be hunted for trophies and for bush meat. In the expanding world of photosafaries and parks in Africa L. walleri will become a regular subject for this endeavor. Unfortunately L. walleri doesn't do well in captivity and has rarely been bred in zoos.
Positive Impacts: food ; ecotourism
The gerenuk //, Litocranius walleri, also known as the Waller's gazelle, is a long-necked species of antelope found in dry thorn shrubland and desert in the Horn of Africa and the African Great Lakes region. The word gerenuk comes from the word in the Somali language, Garanuug, meaning "giraffe-necked". Gerenuk are sometimes also called the giraffe-necked antelope. It is the sole member of the genus Litocranius.
Gerenuks have a relatively small head for their body, but their eyes and ears are proportionately large. Only the males have horns and they also have a more muscular neck than females. Both sexes have ruddy brown coats with a paler underbelly . They have short, black tipped tails. The gerenuk is easily recognizable from its distinctive long and skinny neck which can be elongated further if need be for activities like feeding off the taller brambles and undergrowth of the desert. It also has remarkably long slender legs which are another great advantage as they can gallop away into the distance at very high speeds from any form of predator trying to attack. However, because of the extreme length of their legs, they can be more liable to fracture of the leg bone. There have been numerous occasions in which gerenuks actually snapped their long legs due to tripping and stumbling along the ground. From head to tail, the gerenuk is around 150 centimetres (59 in) long. Males are a little taller than females, at 89–105 cm (35–41 in) tall, with the females typically 80–100 cm (31–39 in) tall. The male is also heavier than the female, weighing 45 kilograms (99 lb), while females weigh around 30 kg (66 lb).
Gerenuks seldom graze but browse on prickly bushes and trees, such as acacias. They can reach higher branches and twigs than other gazelles and antelope by standing erect on their rear legs and elongating their necks. They appear to favour the more tender leaves and shoots, but will also eat buds, flowers, fruit, and herbaceous plants. Gerenuks do not appear to drink water; they get enough water from the plants they eat. Because of this, they can survive in very dry habitats. Gerenuks are often prey for lions, cheetahs, jackals and leopards.
Gerenuk reproduce throughout the year. Females reach sexual maturity at around one year, and males reach sexual maturity at 1.5 years, although in the wild they may only be successful after acquiring a territory (perhaps 3.5 years). The gestation period is about seven months. They are born one at a time, weighing about 3 kg (6.6 lb) at birth. Offspring were produced through artificial insemination for the first time in 2010 at White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida. Four female calves were born, and one of the four was later inseminated successfully by White Oak and SEZARC (South-East Zoo Alliance for Reproduction & Conservation), creating a second generation of calves born from artificial insemination. Gerenuk can live 13 years or more in captivity, and at least eight years in the wild.
- Southern gerenuk, Litocranius walleri walleri
- Northern gerenuk, Litocranius walleri sclateri
- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). "Litocranius walleri". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
- Leuthold, Walter (1978). "Ecology of the gerenuk Litocranius walleri". Journal of Animal Ecology 47 (2): 561–580. JSTOR 3801.
- "One of our member institutions working with assisted reproductive techniques". Conservation Centers for Species Survival. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- Leo, Matt. "Gerenuk". WhoZoo, information about animals at the Fort Worth Zoo. Retrieved 2007-04-09.
- Sanderson, Ivan T. (1970). Knaurs Tierreich in Farben: Säugetiere. Deutscher Bücherbund.
- National Geographic Book of Mammals. National Geographic Society. 1981.
- Dr. Burton, Maurice, and Burton Robert (1969–1970). Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedia 7. B.P.C. Publishing Ltd.
- Homepage of the IUCN/SSC/Antelope specialist regional subgroup for Northeast Africa
- Gerenuk. African Wildlife Foundation.