For animal lovers, Kenya represents the ultimate safari experience. It’s one of the most biodiverse countries in Africa, and thanks to its abundance of national parks and game reserves, you can easily explore its dense forests and expansive savannas in search of an impressive variety of exotic animals. If you’re planning a trip to Kenya, however, you may have heard that it isn’t just the big cats that capture your attention – the antelopes are also incredibly photogenic subjects, and it can be hard to choose which ones to focus on during your trip! In this article, we’ll take a look at ten common antelope species found in Kenya, including several that are endangered or threatened due to loss of habitat from poaching and hunting.
1. Thompson Gazelle.
Thomson’s gazelle, a subspecies of red-fronted gazelle, was named after explorer Joseph Thomson. These gazelles have light brown coats with dark stripes down their sides, a white patch on their rumps that extends beneath the tail, and ridged horns that curve backward. Females may have horns that are shorter, smoother, and slimmer than males, or none at all. These antelopes can be found in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli National Park, Nairobi National Park, and Lake Nakuru National Park.
Impalas are medium-sized antelopes that are endowed with long necks, slender bodies, and a bright tan coat with a reddish-brown saddle. These animals have brush-like tufts of black hair that cover a scent gland on each of their hind legs just above their heel. Females look the same as males but lack horns. The male’s horns are gracefully shaped and range in length from 40 to 90 centimeters. They are also one of the world’s fastest antelope species, with speeds ranging from 75 to 90 km/h. Their long legs allow them to jump high when getting away from their predators. In Kenya, visitors can spot them in Lake Nakuru National Park as well as almost every other national park.
The gerenuk, which means “giraffe-necked” in Somali, is a long-necked antelope that can be found in Northern Kenya. These antelopes are endowed with a smaller head compared to their size as well as large eyes and ears. Males are the only member of the gerenuks that have horns as well as heavily muscled necks as compared to their female counterparts. These large antelopes, like many other gazelles, have preorbital glands in front of the eyes that emit a tar-like, scent-bearing substance that they deposit on twigs and bushes to mark their territory. In Kenya, gerenuks can be spotted in Samburu National Reserve, Meru National Park as well as Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
4. Beisa Oryx.
The beisa oryx is easily identified by its long, straight horns and stunning face markings. The male and female look similar and are difficult to differentiate, but females have shorter and slender horns. They also have black fringed ears and black hair tufts that extend past their ears. In Kenya, these antelopes can be spotted in Samburu National Reserve, Meru National Park as well as Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
The kudus are considered to be one of the most handsome of the tragelaphine antelopes, which includes the bongo, eland, nyala, bushbuck, and sitatunga. Both the greater kudu and its close cousin the lesser kudu, have stripes and spots on their body, and most have a chevron of white hair on the forehead between the eyes. They also have long antlers and brown coats with white vertical torso stripes. They can weigh up to 600 pounds and have narrow bodies, long legs, large ears, brown coats with white vertical torso stripes, and horns as their main distinguishing feature. Male kudus have the longest horns of any antelope, measuring up to 1.8 meters in length and taking an average of six years to grow to full length. In Kenya, these antelope can mostly be seen at Meru National Park.
Wildebeests, also known as gnus, have a large, box-like heads with curving horns. Their forequarters are bulky, while their hindquarters are slender with spindly legs. They also have a gray coat, a black mane, and a beard that can be black or white. They are most commonly found in the Serengeti – Mara Ecosystem. Wildebeest spend the majority of their lives grazing in the grassy savannas and open woodlands of Tanzania and Kenya’s plains.
Waterbuck antelopes are large, robust animals with rounded ears and white patches above the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat. Only males have horns that are prominently ringed and can measure up to 100 centimeters in length. The horns are widely spaced and curve back and up gracefully. They can be lethal when males fight over territories. They are completely reliant on water. Visitors have the highest probability of spotting them in the Tsavo National Park and Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya
Topis are medium-sized antelopes with an eye-catching reddish-brown to purplish-red coat. These antelopes are distinguished by distinctive black patches on their faces, upper forelegs, hips, and thighs. Female topis are typically lighter in color than their male counterparts. Both sexes have horns that are 30 to 40 centimeters long and are thickly ringed. They also have good sight and hearing and can run quite fast with a bounding gait. In Kenya, these antelopes can be easily spotted in Masai Mara Game Reserve.
9. Coke’s Hartebeest.
Hartebeests are large, fawn-colored antelopes. These antelopes have long black markings on their legs, a shiny brownish coat, a long face, a large chest, and a sharp sloping back. These features help differentiate them from other antelopes. They are one of the most recent and highly evolved ungulates and are far from clumsy. In fact, they are one of the fastest antelopes and most enduring runners capable of reaching speeds of up to 70 km/h. Coke’s hartebeests can be spotted in Mount Kenya, the Laikipia Plateau, and west-central Kenya.
10. Common Eland.
The common eland is the world’s second-largest antelope, after the giant eland, and can grow to be 7 meters tall. Males and females have twisted horns that differ slightly. Males have larger horns, whereas females have spiral horns. Adult males also have a forehead hair mat that grows longer and denser as the animal ages. In Kenya, common eland can be found in Nairobi National Park, Tsavo East, and West National Parks, as well as the Masai Mara National Reserve.
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