Gerenuk | African Wildlife Foundation

Habitat loss is threatening this
antelope’s existence

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Gerenuk

Conservation Status:

Near Threatened

  • An estimated 95K remain
  • Live across 4 different countries
  • Females range on more than 2 square miles of territory

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Litocranius walleri

Weight

80 to 115 lb.

Size

35 to 40 in. at the shoulder

Life span

Up to 13 years in captivity

Habitat

Woodland forest to open plains

Diet

Herbivorous

Gestation

About 7 months

Predators

Humans, wild dogs, cheetahs, leopards, lions, jackals

Habitat

Where do gerenuks live?

Gerenuks are found in habitats with woody vegetation, especially dry, flat thornbush and thickets. It avoids very dense woodlands and very open habitats.

Tags: Tanzania, Maasai Steppe, Samburu, East Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a gerenuk?

The gerenuk, whose name means “giraffe-necked” in the Somali language, is an exceptionally long-necked antelope. The gerenuk's head is small for its size, but its eyes and ears are large. Only the males have horns, which are stout and heavily ringed, and they have a more heavily muscled neck than the females do. Gerenuks have a coat that is brown on the upper back and lighter on the sides. The short tail looks longer, as it ends in a tuft of black hair. Like many other gazelles, gerenuks have preorbital glands in front of the eyes that emit a tar-like, scent-bearing substance they deposit on twigs and bushes to mark their territory. They also have scent glands on their knees that are covered by tufts of hair and between their split hooves.

Behavior & Diet

The gerenuk eats standing on two legs.

Gerenuks feed at higher reaches than most other gazelles and antelopes. They stand erect on their hind legs, with their long necks extended, to browse on tall bushes. By using their front legs to pull down higher branches, they can reach leaves 6 to 8 feet off the ground. The tender leaves and shoots of prickly bushes make up most of their diet, along with a nutritious mix of buds, flowers, fruit, and climbing plants. They do not eat grass and do not require water. They can get enough moisture from the plant life they eat and can survive in dry thornbush country and even in desert.

They live in small groups.

Gerenuks' social groups may consist of related females and their young or bachelor groups of males. Sometimes, males will live alone. The latter are thought to be territorial, but as their ranges are large and populations are usually sparse, it has been difficult for scientists to determine if they defend these territories. Female groups wander over a home range of 1 to 2 square miles, passing in and out of male territories. 

Fawns are kept hidden from sight. 

When ready to give birth, the female leaves the group and goes to a secluded spot. Unlike many other grazing animals, gerenuks bear young at any time instead of just before the rainy season. During the first weeks of its life, the baby gerenuk spends its time hidden in the bush while its mother feeds. She returns to suckle the fawn three to four times a day and carefully cleans or eats its waste to leave no trace of scent.  

They are very vocal.

Gerenuks use several vocalizations, including a buzzing sound when alarmed, a whistle when annoyed, a loud bleat when in extreme danger, and a soft bleat when females communicate with their young.

Gallery
  • Gerenuk Paul Thomson
  • Gerenuk AWF
  • Gerenuk Andrew Velthuis
  • Gerenuk AWF
Challenges

Habitat loss and fragmentation are the biggest threats to gerenuk populations.

As human populations grow, they expand settlements, roads, and agriculture, resulting in lost or segmented habitats for gerenuks and other wildlife. This makes it more difficult for them to find food, shelter themselves from predators, and locate mates.

Solutions

Our solutions to conserving the gerenuk:

  • Work with governments.

    African Wildlife Foundation engages with government entities to help plan and propose alternative solutions to habitat fragmentation. In the case of the Serengeti Highway, we provide our scientists and researchers as resources to assist in proper planning to ensure a balance between modernization and conservation.

  • Expand conservation tourism.

    AWF brings together private investors and communities to construct tourism lodges like Satao Elerai, a luxury lodge situated on 5,000 acres in Kenya. The land is protected, so gerenuks and other wildlife can roam safely and freely, and the revenue is reinvested into the community and into local wildlife conservation.

Projects

Will you show gerenuks your support?

With your help, AWF can continue to work on critical initiatives in areas where gerenuks live like conservation tourism and engaging with government entities to plan and propose sustainable alternative solutions to habitat fragmentation. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure gerenuks do not take the plunge and become an endangered species. 

  • Kitengela Land Conservation
    Protecting habitat and communities near Kenya’s capital

    Human expansion is threatening wildlife outside of Nairobi, Kenya.

    For many years, local Maasai communities, their livestock, and wildlife comfortably shared the open...

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