An unlikely antelope

The gerenuk, Litocranius walleri, was new to me. I had never even heard of it. Its name comes from the Somali garanuug, and its Swahili name is swala twiga, meaning ‘gazelle giraffe’. You can see why.


It is a creature of dry acacia savannahs in the Horn of Africa and northern Kenya (here, Lewa and Il Ngwesi in Laikipia) , and it uses that long neck to browse higher in the trees, just like a small giraffe. It is famous for its unusual habit (for an antelope) of standing on its hind legs to reach the best leaves up to two metres off the ground:

This one went on eating, but kept an eye on us:

I find their slender necks and huge ears very endearing.

Like most antelope, the social unit is a male and his harem, here numbering seven (only six are in the shot and the male is in the centre.)

If a female is coming into season he follows her, sniffing:

If she doesn’t respond, his next ice-breaking move is to kick her, as a way of getting her attention:

Rather surprisingly, this sometimes works, but not this time.

You can see from the photos how dry everything is: the rains are late, and the drought is severe. This graceful animal is classified by the IUCN as “Near Threatened”. Its population declined by 25% between 2001 and 2016, due to hunting and habitat loss from grazing. To think I have only just learnt of its existence, and yet it may be vanishing. How sad.

PS I kept hoping that two of them would position themselves so I could take a “push-me-pull you” shot, but they failed to oblige.

3 thoughts on “An unlikely antelope”

  1. Definitely a sweet & interesting looking animal. I really like the 2nd photo of the reaching for leaves…& the ears that look like they have a picture of antlers inside them… cave carvings. Male has nice horns. Not sure about the kick…definitely an attention getter. This is such a great blog, Moira….you take excellent photos, narrative is so informative.


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