That Wildebeest? That One's Always Here
Sunday morning one of the animals we saw at the Nkorho waterhole was a lone Blue Wildebeest. Oh...just a wildebeest huh? Wait...before you yawn, take another look at that critter. The Blue Wildebeest, or Brindled Gnu, is one of the most common bushveld species in South Africa, perhaps the reason we take his appearance at the water hole for granted. The older males that have lost their importance in the herd will wander off and spend the last years of their lives alone. Several of those males wander around the NK area, and have been fondly dubbed “Lonesome Leonard”, or poor old “George”. Don’t feel too sorry for them, they’ve earned the right to that slow relaxed graze we watch. They’ve challenged many a male for the right to keep their offspring in the herd every year, and have now given that responsibility to others. While the wildebeest in general is a meek and mild animal, if he is confronted the tables will turn and he can become very dangerous. Why are the herds we see in Sabi Sands so much smaller than the ones we see roaming the Serengeti? Hunting, an increase in cattle ranching and of course, human overpopulation are the top hindrances, proving even the critters that are plentiful are suffering from human presence. These smaller groups of wildebeest mean less prey for the lions and hyenas and even on occasion the leopards and cheetahs. But why are they so wrinkly looking? What are mistaken for wrinkles around the neck and shoulder areas are actually strips of longer hair, giving the appearance of deep wrinkles. In the sun they give off a deep blue sheen...this the name Blue Wildebeest. Wildebeest calves should be making their appearances soon, but with the herds being small, their survival rate is only about 50 percent compared to 80 percent in the larger herds. Each year we count the young and watch as over the next months the number dwindles, with most falling to predators.
While the wildebeest isn’t endangered, he is a good indicator of how things are progressing. Smaller herds mean less protection for the calves, means less will survive, means the herds will become smaller and smaller.
Now take a look at this lonely guy, I wonder how many of his offspring made it to adulthood...
Entries #12, #13, and #14