The gerenuk, Litocranius walleri, also known as the Waller's gazelle, is a long-necked species of antelope found in dry thorn bush scrub and desert in East Africa, from Somalia, Djibouti and eastern Ethiopia through northern and eastern Kenya to northeastern Tanzania. The word gerenuk (pronounced with a hard g) comes from the Somali language, meaning "giraffe-necked". Gerenuk are sometimes also called the giraffe-necked antelope. It is the sole member of the genus Litocranius.
Gerenuks have a relatively small head for their body, but their eyes and ears are proportionately large. Only the males have horns and they also have a more muscular neck than females. Both sexes have ruddy brown coats with a paler underbelly . They have short, black tipped tails. The gerenuk is easily recognizable from its distinctive long and skinny neck which can be elongated further if need be for activities like feeding off the taller brambles and undergrowth of the desert. It also has remarkably long slender legs which are another great advantage as they can gallop away into the distance at very high speeds from any form of predator trying to attack. However, because of the extreme length of their legs, they can be more liable to fracture of the leg bone. There have been numerous occasions in which gerenuks actually snapped their long legs due to tripping and stumbling along the ground. From head to tail, the gerenuk is around 150 centimetres (59 in) long. Males are a little taller than females, at 89–105 cm (35–41 in) tall, with the females typically 80–100 cm (31–39 in) tall. The male is also heavier than the female, weighing 45 kilograms (99 lb), while females weigh around 30 kg (66 lb). Many breeders of gerenuks and zoologists have described gerenuks as being extremely humble animals, always helping fellow gerenuks. In ancient African tribal tales, the gerenuk has often been crowned 'Queen of Humbleness.'
Gerenuks seldom graze but browse on prickly bushes and trees, such as acacias. They can reach higher branches and twigs than other gazelles and antelope by standing erect on their rear legs and elongating their necks. They appear to favour the more tender leaves and shoots, but will also eat buds, flowers, fruit, and herbaceous plants. Gerenuks do not appear to drink water; they get enough water from the plants they eat. Because of this, they can survive in very dry habitats. Gerenuks are often prey for lions, cheetahs, jackals and leopards.
Gerenuk reproduce throughout the year. Females reach sexual maturity at around one year, and males reach sexual maturity at 1.5 years, although in the wild they may only be successful after acquiring a territory (perhaps 3.5 years). The gestation period is about seven months. They are born one at a time, weighing about 3 kg (6.6 lb) at birth. Offspring were produced through artificial insemination for the first time in 2010 at White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida. Four female calves were born, and one of the four was later inseminated successfully by White Oak and SEZARC (South-East Zoo Alliance for Reproduction & Conservation), creating a second generation of calves born from artificial insemination. Gerenuk can live 13 years or more in captivity, and at least eight years in the wild.
- Southern gerenuk, Litocranius walleri walleri
- Northern gerenuk, Litocranius walleri sclateri
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- Media related to Litocranius walleri at Wikimedia Commons
- Gerenuk at Al Wabra Wildlife Preserve