Coke's Hartebeest Alcelaphus bucelaphus, also known as the Kongoni, has the distinctive "Hartebeest" look with its long narrow head and sloping back. It is a grass eater which is found on open plains in small groups. Females tend to form harem troops and young males will often group together, although solitary males are often seen. Coke's Hartebeest can be confused with the Topi (to which it is related) but is has longer, distinctly lyre shaped horns, an overall lighter colouration and no dark (blue) patches.
The Topi Damaliscus lunatus, is a distinctively marked animal which resembles a Hartebeest and indeed one subspecies of Damaliscus lunatus is known as Hunter's Hartebeest (other members of the species are known as the Sassaby, Korrigum, Tiang and Hirola). It has a sloping back, weakly lyre shaped horns and purplish-blue patches on its flanks, legs and shoulders. Topi are sociable gathering in small harems of a few females with their young and a single male. They are grass-eaters which favour open plains. The Maasai Mara is a particularly good place to see Topi. They are territorial and advertise their presence by standing bolt upright on termite mounds.
The Wildebeest, Connochaetes taurinus, is possibly most famous for occurring in spectacular numbers seasonally in the Maasai Mara and Serengeti. The regular migrations of enormous herds, which may contain hundreds of thousands of animals, allow Wildebeest to follow the good grazing which comes after the rains in East Africa. This leads Wildebeest to cross dangerous stretches of water like the Mara River which claims the lives of the weak and those unfortunate enough to get too close to the Crocodiles that lie in wait. At other times Wildebeest gather in smaller groups with females and calves forming herds and young males forming separate bachelor herds. One of the classic sights in Kenya is the long lines of Wildebeest travelling in single file to and from water (they drink daily). They look rather tired since they travel with their heads hanging down, but in fact this isn't tiredness, Wildebeest have scent glands in their feet and so as members of a herd travel they keep their noses close to the ground to catch the scent of other group members. Unlike the majority of Kenyan mammals Wildebeest young all tend to be born within a 3 week period which coincides with the peak rain season.
The Oryx Oryx gazella is dry country animal which is at home in desert environments. They have acute hearing and can detect men on horse-back/camel-back and also cars, light aircraft etc at distances of over 1km. They scatter and hide almost immediately. They generally occur in small groups although in desert regions they can form into large herds. If attacked they will defend themselves using their horns to skewer their attacker. They have a wide diet which includes grass, leaves, shoots, fruit, tubers and even onions. They are adept at finding water and will dig for it in dry river beds. If water is available then Oryx drink daily, however they can make do without getting their water from their food (including things such as wild melon). It is believed by some people that the Oryx may have given rise to the myth of the unicorn since from the side it sometimes appears as though it only has 1 very long spiral horn.
Impala, Aepyceros melampus, are elegant, smooth-coated animals which travel in small herds. Only the males have horns and these are impressively large and lyre-shaped. One of the distinguishing features of Impala is the dark spot on the body at the junction with the top of the back leg. Impala are grass eaters which prefer lightly wooded country with a ready supply of water close by. Females form into harems with their young, each harem has a single male who will fight other males to defend his group and territory. This is an exhausting process for the male who will usually go back to a bachelor herd for a period of time after the breeding season (sometimes this may be for a few years).
Reedbuck, Redunca redunca, is a grass-eater with very good sight, hearing and sense of smell. When disturbed it lies flat with its neck stretched and then leaps up at the last moment. It is important for Reedbuck to have a ready supply of water and they are territorial with an old male defending a small number of females. They can be seen quite readily at Lake Nakuru while the Mountain Reedbuck, Redunca fulvorufula can be seen on slopes at higher altitudes.
There are 2 forms of Waterbuck, Kobus ellipsiprymnus, found in Kenya. The Northern or DeFassa Waterbuck has a whitish rump while the Southern Common Waterbuck has a large white ring on its rump (or, as it was once described to us "a target painted on its bum"!). They are stout and strongly built with a rough coat. They have sweat glands across their whole body and these produce a waterproofing fluid which coats the whole body. They mainly eat grass but will also browse on leaves, buds, shoots etc. We particularly like walking through the woods around Lake Naivasha where you can pass alongside small groups of Waterbuck grazing in the dappled light, the combination of colouring and their apparently large, liquid eyes is very peaceful.