01 January 2012

The Big Guys

We are back from spending Christmas in Gauteng with the family and I managed to fit in 5 nights of camera trapping at Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve.

First up, the biggest antelope in the world: the Eland.

An Eland (Eland - Tragelaphus oryx) smiling for the camera

Eland are usually found in herds of 20-60 animals, but they sometimes form temporary herds of more than 500 individuals. They have a fairly loose social system with animals freely joining herds. I'm not sure how many animals this nature reserve have, but we did see a herd of at least 150 animals.

A herd of Eland at Suikerbosrand of about 20 animals

These antelope are big. They weigh 450-700kg (up to 900kg) and stand 1.7m tall at the shoulders. A large bull walked past one of the camera traps. Unfortunately it was too close to photograph the entire animal.

A large bull walking past the camera in the rain

I've always found it difficult to see Eland up close. They seem to prefer keeping a safe distance from any possible threat. This is a wise move since they are high on the menu for most top predators and have been extensively hunted by humans for thousands of years.

The Khoisan people revered them greatly. The Eland is a common animal depicted on their rock paintings and formed part of many rituals and believes.

These guys are excellent jumpers

An Eland can easily clear a 2m fence, despite their huge size. They are prone to wander over large areas in search of better feeding grounds. They are primarily browsers (eating leaves, etc.), but they also eat grass, roots and bulbs. Access to water is not required, but they will drink if water is available.

Having a closer look at the camera

Despite their natural tendency to keep a safe distance from danger, they seem to be easily tamed. There has been attempts to domesticate the Eland by farmers in Southern Africa, USA and Russia (of all places) for milk and meat. However, the animals' jumping ability, wondering nature and social structure have proven problematic when trying to farm them in the same way as other domestic livestock.

On the last day of camera trapping this Eland decided to adjust the camera angle

Another interesting things about the Eland is that they make a clicking sound while walking. If you want to find out more I would highly recommend reading about Lynda's Eland encounters on her excellent blog called Mainly Mongoose over here.


  1. Suikerbosrand is where I first saw Eland, and along with my visit to Marievale, was my greatest day of birding ever. Have you eaten Eland?

  2. Hi John. I'm glad to hear you've been to Suikerbosrand :)

    Yes, the birding at Suikerbosrand is incredible. Unfortunately we were under a time constraint and I had barely enough time to set and collect the cameras, so I couldn't spend nearly enough time birding :(

    I have eaten Eland. We often buy Eland biltong. It is very good :)