The common eland also scientifically referred to as Taurotragus oryx is spread in the savannah and plains of South and East Africa including Uganda where it is always encountered on Uganda safaris. The common eland is a species of Bovidae family and Taurotragus genus and was given first description in 1766 by Peter Simon Pallas.
It can be noted that the common eland is the second largest world antelope after the giant eland with a smaller distinction in size. The common elands feature spiral horns and are noted to be dimorphic sexually with the males being larger than the females. The females feature 300 – 600kg in weight measuring 200cm – 280cm in length from the snout to the tail base and rise to 125 – 153cm in height at their shoulder. The Bull elands have 400 – 942 kg in weight measuring 240 – 345cm in length from the snout to the tail base and rise to 150 – 183cm in height at their shoulder. The eland tail can be 50 – 90cm in length as usually seen by travelers on safaris in Uganda.
The eland coats tend to differ with geography. The elands in the north of Africa feature distinctive markings which are not visible among the southern elands. These marks include; leg markings, torso stripes, spinal crest and dark garters. Besides the rough mane, the elands’ coat is smooth. The female elands feature a tan coat while the male coats are darker featuring bluish grey tinge. The bull elands feature white stripes in vertical series on their sides and this is common in the Karoo parts of Southern Africa. The male coats tend to be grey when they attain old age. It can also be noted that males feature dense fur on their forehead while their throat features a large dewlap as encountered on Uganda safari.
The both eland sexes possess horns that have steady spiral ridge that resembles that of a bushbuck. The eland horns are visible as small buds in the newly born and tend to grow expeditiously in the first seven months. It can be noted that the horns of the male elands are thicker and are shorter compared to the female counterparts. The male horns stretch to 43 – 66cm while females stretch to 51 – 69cm in terms in height. The male horns are used for wrestling and butting heads with the rivals during the rutting season while the females make use of their horns for guarding the young ones against predators.
The common eland is noted to be the slowest of all antelopes and can only run to the maximum speed of 40km per hour and gets tired quickly. However the elands can maintain a 22km per hour trot without stopping. The Elands are able to jump up to 2.5m and 3m for the young ones. The life expectancy of the elands is between 15 – 20 years though some elands live up to 25 years.
The herds of elands are escorted by a clicking loud sound. It is noted that animal weight causes the two halves of its hooves to spread apart and the click sound is generated by the hoof snapping together when the leg of the animals is raised. The sound goes some distance from where the herd is and could be a communication means and guides taking visitors for game viewing on safari in Uganda at times use such sound to spot the elands.
The elands are greatly herbivore and its diet is mostly composed of leaves and grasses. The eland herds can be as large as 500 members and are not territorial. The common eland habitat features a range of flowering plants including woodlands, savannah, montane and open grasslands. It can be noted that elands tend to avoid dense forests and would invoke loud barks, postural and visual movements in communication and warning others of danger.
The elands are used by man for meat, leather and rich nutritious milk and in some areas, they have been domesticated. The Elands are native to the countries of Uganda, Botswana, Kenya, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, South Sudan, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania. They are extinct in the countries of Angola and Burundi. Though the population of elands is steadily reducing, it is still listed as least concern on the red list of International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)