Connochaetes taurinus taurinus
The Blue (or Common) Wildebeest must be one of Africa’s most familiar antelope, although it will probably never be included in a list of the continent’s most elegant creatures. Bulls stand around 1.5m high at the shoulder, and weigh about 240kg, while cows are more lightly built at around 180kg.
Blue wildebeest inhabit open grasslands, savannas and semi-deserts, where they subsists almost exclusively on short grasses and require a reliable supply of water, even in arid regions.
These diurnal herbivores congregate in herds of up to 10,000 (but mostly much smaller – a few dozen or so), consisting mostly of cows and calves traversing the territories of mature bulls. Smaller bachelor herds made up of bulls unable to maintain a territory of their own also occur. They will cover enormous distances trekking after fresh grazing and water. Blue wildebeest are commonly found associating with other game species, especially impala, giraffes and plains zebras, and have a curious love for rolling in mud and dung!
Calves are born in the herd at the onset of the rainy season and can walk within 10 minutes of birth. Blue wildebeest have an expected life span of around 15 years, fall prey to all Africa’s large predators and also suffer from several parasites and sicknesses.
In South Africa, Blue Wildebeest can be found in all of the northern provinces, though mostly confined to national parks, nature reserves and game ranches. Large populations can be found in Kruger National Park, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, Pilanesberg National Park, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Ithala Game Reserve and uMkhuze Game Reserve. The IUCN considers the Common Wildebeest (C. taurinus) to be of least concern in conservation terms, estimating the total population at around 1,5-million, of which 130,000 belong to the southern subspecies, the Blue Wildebeest (C. t. taurinus).