17 August 2011 by Julienne du Toit

Clicking with Africa’s Moose

‘An antelope in ox’s clothing’ is how Richard D Estes describes the eland. This is Africa’s moose, the world’s largest antelope.

Weighing between 400kg and 1 000kg, it is something of an anomaly. An animal so big would need plenty of water and high quality pasture, wouldn’t it? In fact, no. If there’s no water, eland don’t stress. They just do without.

They can survive on low quality pasture or browse and convert a startling amount of it into bulk, which is why they attracted attention as potential farm animals.

A famous project in Russia was started in the 1930s and showed that eland can be tamed, corralled and even milked. The only problem is that they can clear a 3m high enclosure wall from a standing start. Not a problem you’d have with cows, as a rule. Or bontebok (see previous post).

They also needs far more rangeland most people have available on a farm.

There are more depictions of eland in ancient cave art than any other animal. They had a spiritual status far above any other animal for the San (Bushmen).

As they walk, you’ll hear a clear clicking sound which can carry over a kilometre away on a quiet night. No scientists has yet deemed it a worthy subject of study, so we’re still mystified. Is it their knee joints? Is it their hooves that move apart and then together as they pick them up? At any rate I’ve heard it said that the many clicks in the San language began as a kind of tribute to their sacred animal.

I’d love to know if that were true.

Category: Wildlife

comments powered by Disqus