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Distribution

    Distribution
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    The hartebeest, Alcelaphus buselaphus, was originally found in grasslands throughout the African continent (Walker 1997). It ranged from Morroco to northeastern Tanzania and, south of the Congo, it ranged from southern Angola to South Africa. Its range has been drastically reduced, however, due to hunting by humans, habitat destruction and foraging competition with domestic cattle. Now the hartebeest is found only in parts of Botswana, Namibia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Kenya.

    Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

Morphology

    Morphology
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    The hartebeest is a large ungulate ranging from 1.5 m to 2.45 m in length. Its tail is 300 to 700 mm and shoulder height is 1.1 to 1.5 m. It is characterized by a steeply sloping back, long legs, large glands below the eyes, a tufted tail, and a long, narrow rostrum. The body hair is about 25mm long and is quite fine in texture. It has paler patches of hair on most of its rump and chest and on parts of its face. It has been suggested that the pale hair on the rump may be presented in attracting mates or to ward off aggressors. There are several subspecies which are distinguished from each other by coat color, which varies from pale brown to brownish gray, and by horn shape. All subspecies have 2 horns, in both sexes, that rise from a single pedicel and are 450 to 700mm in length. Sexual maturity may occur as early as 12 months, but members of this species do not reach their maximum weight until 4 years of age (Kingdon 1989). The hartebeest has a lifespan of 11 to 20 years (Walker 1997; African Wildlife Foundation).

    Range mass: 75 to 200 kg.

    Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

    Sexual Dimorphism: ornamentation

Habitat

    Habitat
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    A. buselaphus inhabits the savannahs and grasslands of Africa. It is tolerant of high grasses and may be found in woodland or scrubs areas more than other alcelaphines (Nowak 1997; Schaller 1972; African Wildlife Foundation).

    Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; scrub forest

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
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    Hartebeests are grazers that feed almost entirely on grass (African Wildlife Foundation). Greater than 95% of their food in the wet season (October to May) is grass and grass never comprises any less than 80% of their diet (Schuette 1998). Schuette determined that A. buselaphus in Burkina Faso, West Africa eats primarily Andropogon grass during the rainy season. Between seasons their diet is primarily Culms grass. It eats a small percentage of Hyparrhenia (a grass) and legumes throughout the year. Jasminium kerstingii is also part of its diet at the beginning of the rainy season. The hartebeest is exceptionally tolerant of poor-quality food. Schuette argues that the long rostrum in A. bucelaphus enhances mastication ability and allows it to crop grasses better than other bovids. Thus, when availibility of succulent grasses is limited, as in the dry season, the hartebeest is able to eat the tougher senescent grasses. It has been substantiated elsewhere that A. buselaphus is able to digest a higher percentage of its food than other bovids (Murray 1993).

    Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts

    Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

Behavior

    Behavior
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Life Expectancy
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    Average lifespan
    Status: wild:
    20.0 years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    19.0 years.

Reproduction

    Reproduction
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    Breeding in A. buselaphus takes place in territories that are defended by single males, preferably in open areas on plateaus or ridges (African Wildlife Foundation). Territorial males sniff the female's genitalia. If she is estrous, the male follows her around with his ears depressed. He will occasionally position himself laterally to the female and attempt to block her way. Once the female stands still, she allows the male to mount her. Copulation is brief but may be repeated several times. Copulation is always interrupted if another male intrudes. The intruder is usually chased away (Kingdon 1989). Reproduction varies seasonally depending on the population or subspecies of Hartebeest involved. Nowak (1997) reports that there are birth peaks from October to November in South Africa, December to February in Ethiopia, and February to March in Nairobi National Park. Gestation is 214-242 days and usually a single calf is born. Females isolate themselves in scrub areas to give birth (Schaller 1972; African Wildlife Foundation). This is markedly different than the birthing habits of their close relative the wildebeest, which give birth in groups on the open plains. Female A. buselaphus then leave their young hidden in the scrub for a few weeks, coming back only to suckle. Young are weaned at four months (Kingdon 1989).

    Breeding interval: Female hartebeest bear a single offspring no more than once per year.

    Breeding season: Mating season varies in this species, depending on the location of the population.

    Range number of offspring: 1 to 1.

    Range gestation period: 7.13 to 8.07 months.

    Range weaning age: 4 to 8 months.

    Average weaning age: 4 months.

    Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

    Average birth mass: 9050 g.

    Average number of offspring: 1.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female:
    730 days.

    Parental Investment: altricial ; post-independence association with parents

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
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    Swayne's hartebeest (A. buselaphus swaynei) and the Tora hartebeest (A. buselaphus tora) are endangered because of small and continually declining populations. Four other subspecies are classified as lower risk by the IUCN, but will be rated threatened or endangered if ongoing conservation efforts are ended. The reasons for population declines are unknown but have been attributed to the expansion of cattle into hartebeest feeding territories and, to a lesser extent, habitat destruction and hunting. Kindon (1989) remarks that "the hartebeest has probably suffered the greatest contraction in range of all African ruminants." Once prolific in Africa it now has very limited territories.

    US Federal List: endangered

    CITES: no special status

    IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

Benefits

    Benefits
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    The hartebeest competes with cattle for grazing land. Although their meat it desirable, hartebeests exhibit a complex social system and are hard to maintain in a closed environment. For this reason, they are not good candidates for domestication. They are rare at zoos because they are dangerous to people and each other if closely confined (Kingdon 1989).

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The hartebeest is a prized game animal both for its meat, which is recognized as having excellent flavor, and as a trophy. Presently, hunting travel packages that include seeking hartebeests are easy to come by on the internet (African Safari Consultants). Since it is fairly sedentary and easily visible, the hartebeest is fairly easy to hunt (Kingdon 1989).

    Positive Impacts: food

Other Articles

    Untitled
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    There is evidence that the hartebeest once was domesticated by the ancient Egyptians and used as a sacrificial animal (Kingdon 1990 and African Wildlife Foundation).