Thomson's Gazelle, Gazella thomsoni, is the smallest of Kenya's gazelles and is the favoured prey of the Cheetah. It forms herds with a single male holding a harem of between 5-65 females and young. Younger males group together in bachelor herd which can contain hundreds of individuals. In the dry season the herds move around and merge into groupings which can number into the thousands. Thomson's Gazelle are often found mixed with Grant's Gazelle, Widebeestes and Zebras. When they sense danger they stamp, wave their tails and bounce in the air. We have also observed a large herd following a Cheetah to ensure it was well out of their way. This looked rather strange (a bit like a game of "chicken" in a school playground) with a front line of gazelles walking towards the Cheetah and then dashing back when it turned to look.
Grant's Gazelle, Gazella granti, is a large, rather pale, gazelle with a distinctive leaf-shaped mask around its eye. It has a white rump and the base of its tail is also white, this feature is emphasised by the dark stripe down the back of each thigh. Females occasionally also have a dark stripe along their flanks. These gazelles are often found in mixed groups alongside other herbivores e.g. Wildebeest, Zebras and Thomson's Gazelle. They may occur in large numbers (up to 500 individuals) in suitable areas. They eat herbs and the foliage of shrubs most of the time except at the start of the wet season when they eat the grass while it is young and green.
The Gerenuk, Litocranius walleri, is a very distinctive gazelle, especially when feeding. It stands on its hind legs and uses its long neck to browse the bushes and trees. It eats leaves, buds, fruit and flowers as well as any climbing plants. It is a dry country animal and gets most of its water from its food, only occasionally stopping to drink from pools. They are common in Samburu and we've found this is the best place to see them.
Kirk's Dik-dik, Madoqua kirkii, is a small antelope which reaches a height of only 35-45 cm at the shoulder. They pair for life and it is seldom you see a Dik-dik on its own. They are dry country animals and have no need to drink, getting all the water they need from their food which consists of leaves, buds, flowers, fruit as well as grass. Salt is extremely important in their diet and they die very quickly in captivity if salt isn't readily available. It is only the males that have horns, but sometimes these can't be seen clearly as they may be hidden by the tuft of forehead hair. They are very common in both Samburu and Tsavo which is where we tend to see them most.
The Klipspringer, Oreotragus oreotragus, is a shy, often difficult to spot animal. They inhabit rocky terrain with bush cover and during the day one of a pair may be seen standing motionless on watch on a rocky outcropping. They are preyed on by Leopard, Caracal and Crowned Eagles. They have a varied diet which consists of leaves, flowers, fruit, grass and beard moss and, like the Gerenuk, they stand on their hind legs to reach higher foliage. They need little water and in the dry season they don't tend to drink at all, getting what they need from their food. We've found that the best place to see them is at Tsavo West around the lava flow.
The male Greater Kudu, Tragelaphus strepsiceros, is an impressive animal with its long spiral horns and distinctive markings. The females generally don't have horns although some females do grow small ones, but like the males they also have the narrow white body stripes, broad white nasal stripe and white cheek spots. The females travel in small herds of around 6 to 12 individuals, often accompanied by a male. Their diet consists of leaves, buds and grass, leguminous plants are an important part of their diet. Despite the impressive set of horns they rarely attack preferring flight to fight, even when cornered old males tend not to defend themselves.
The Lesser Kudu, Tragelaphus imberbis, as its name suggests, is smaller than the Greater Kudu. Males reach a maximum weight of 108kg (Greater Kudu males can weigh up to 315kg) with females weighing up to 70kg (215kg for the Greater Kudu). Lesser Kudus have between 11-15 vertical white stripes on their bodies and large white patches on their necks and chests. They live in bushland with Acacia and Commiphora thickets. They are browsers and eat a wide variety of plant material including the fleshy leaves of succulent plants and the leaves, shoots, buds, flowers and pods of various Acacias. They also eat fruit. Grass is only included in their diet when it is very young and green. They are very shy and very, very alert and this makes them difficult to spot. They tend to be found in small groups and close relatives may remain together for a number of years.
The Eland, Taurotragus oryx, is Kenya's largest antelope. A male can weigh up to 942kg and a female up to 600kg. Males grow bigger and get heavier throughout their life and their dewlap (the large flap of skin which hangs below the neck) also increases in size as males age. They have scent glands on their hindlegs just above the hooves so they leave a scent trail as they walk through the grass. They are mostly found in woodland and, despite their massive size, they are rather shy animals and disappear silently into the trees if disturbed. They browse on herbs and foliage and their system is adapted to a high protein, lower fibre diet. They can tolerate tough, aromatic food and eat myrrh and bush willow. They also eat acacia seed pods and marula fruit but are attracted to the early flushes of greenery that you get after the rains.
Elands are gregarious but they don't stick to a single herd and there is movement between groups. They band together in open areas for protection and also come together in impressively large numbers in response to the appearance fo greenery after showers and thunderstorms. Females and young animals tend to be more nomadic than males (particularly older males) and they also form larger groups.
They really are beautiful animals to watch. Despite their size they nevertheless seem graceful as they appear and disappear silently.