Black Wildebeest

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From a distance the Black Wilderbeest appears black in overall colour, but actually more dark brown, with contrasting long, horse-like, white-haired tail and white to off-white mane with black tip. Large, broad-snouted head, face covered with a brush-like tuft of black hairs and a fringe of long black hairs under the jaw. Horns have a stout but unjoined boss, and bend steeply down, forward and up. Both sexes carry horns with those of bulls being thicker and more robust.

Distribution

Once restricted to the Highveld grasslands of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Has been widely reintroduced and introduced outside its traditional range. Huntable in South Africa and Namibia. Current legal problems in at least one South African province are causing farmers to cull out this species, as they are not allowed to offer it as a trophy animal. As much as 80% of the black wildebeest population is located on privately owned game and other farms, with the remainder on state and provincial reserves.

Conservation standing

Approximately 20,000 individuals survive. More than a third of the population is on game farms in Namibia that falls outside their traditional range. Risks of hybridisation with blue wildebeest are ongoing and some populations are known to have been “polluted”, including in a number of state conservation areas.

Habitat

Open grassland and low karoid scrub, but always where this is adequate grass cover.

Behaviour

Bulls establish territories and during the rut they attempt to keep cows within their area for mating. Nursery herds of cows and young normally wander freely across bull territories at other times. Bulls mark their territories with urine, droppings, scent secretions and elaborate displays. Bachelor herds circulate around the fringes of established bull territories. In the past they were known to have undertaken seasonal migrations in large herds. Because herds tend to stay only where there is abundant food this often results in severe trampling and erosion.

Food

Grazers but rarely take herbaceous plants.