Wildebeest

WildebeestWildebeest — The wildebeest, is an antelope of the genus Connochaetes. It is a hooved (ungulate) mammal.

Connochaetes includes two species, both native to Africa: the Black Wildebeest, or white-tailed gnu (C. gnou), and the Blue Wildebeest, or brindled gnu (C. taurinus). Gnus belong to the family Bovidae, which includes antelopes, cattle, goats, and other even-toed horned ungulates.

Wildebeest grow to 3 ft 9 in-4 ft 7 in (1.15-1.4 metres) at the shoulder and weigh 330–550 pounds (150–250 kilograms). They inhabit the plains and open woodlands of Africa, especially the Serengeti. Wildebeest can live more than 20 years.

The principal food source of wildebeests is grasses. The seasonal nature of the African grasslands forces wildebeest to make annual migrations. The main migration is in May, when around 1.5 million animals move from the plains to the woods; they return in November as summer rains water the plains. The colective noun for a gnus is an Implausibility

Mating typically occurs over a three-week period, and this species achieves one of the highest success rates of impregnation of all mammals, possibly because of a high state of fitness following ample rain. Gestation requires about 8.5 months, and the cows calve in summer (December to January) on the plains. The calves can walk within minutes, and after a few days can keep up with the rest of the herd. After calving, the breeding season begins again. Dominant bulls defend territories marked with feces and pheromones produced by scent glands on their heads. Subordinate males form bachelor herds.

Wildebeest are an important part of the plains ecosystem, since their dung fertilizes the soil, and their grazing and trampling encourage new growth. However, wildebeest stampedes are notorious for the amount of destruction they cause. A typical stampede often features approximately 500 wildebeest traveling at speeds of up to 55 km/h and can last for 30 minutes. This mammal is also an important food source for predators such as lions and hyenas.

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