Picture of a Lion Chasing a Hyena

Gnu

Gnu (or as they are more commonly known, "Wildebeest") are one the favorite species of prey for many predators. They have a skull struture much like that of bulls and buffalo, yet the rest of their physiology resebles that of an antelope. This body structure allows them to stampede through the open plain at speed reaching 50 mph.

Connochaetes

Gnu (more commonly known as widldebeest which comes from the Dutch and Africanns words wild beest. These are translated "wild animal/beast".) are large mamalian herbivores belonging to the "Bovidae", which is a grouping of even-toed horned Ungulates. There are two species that exist in Africa, the Black Wildebeest (C. gnou) and the Blue Wildebeest (C. taurinus). They can shoulder height ranges from 1.15 to 1.4 m (39 in. to 47 in.) and weigh around 150 to 250 kg. (330 to 550 lb.). They can be found around Africa, but are most commonly seen in the Serengeti.

As with most herbivores, their princinple foods source are grasses. Because of the extreme changes in climate they are forced into massive migrations annually. Theses seasonal movements are known as "The Great Migration". When the summer heat begins to burn the plains in May the gnu move to the cool woodlands. The November rains draw the beast back to the grasslands where the predators eagerly await their arrival.

One reason these animals survive so well is because they enjoy one of the highest succes rates of impregnation of all mammals. The abundance of rain allows for a high state of fitness. After an eight and one half month period of gestation, the cows drop. The calves walk within minutes of the birth. The alpha males rule herds, while less prominant males form bachelor parties. These animals feces fertilizes the soil and their trampling encourages knew plant growth. The infamous stampedes which they are driven to start, often involve an entire herd (hundreds of individuals) thundering across the plain at 80 kph (50 mph) for up to 30 min. Herbivores, predators and territorial fences have all fallen prey to gnu hoofs.

By Marcel Raphael.
Voice over by Dr. Brian Child, associate professor of the Department of Geography in the University of Florida.
Copyright 2006.