Hartebeest: Trophy Hunting Leads to Rise and Fall
The African Hartebeest is a grassland antelope that is found throughout the African continent. The species was first described by Peter Simon Pallas in 1766.
The Hartebeest is made up of eight subspecies including the Northern Hartebeest, Red Hartebeest, Coke’s Hartebeest, Lelwel Hartebeest, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, Western Hartebeest, Swayne’s Hartebeest and the Tora Hartebeest.
Their main predators include lions, leopards, hyena, cheetahs, jackals and wild dogs.
How Nikela Helps
Although Nikela does not have a project that directly protects Hartebeest many awareness campaigns address the plight of Africa’s endangered and threatened wildlife species as a whole. Actually Nikela is for preserving all wild things and their wild places.
Facts About the Hartebeest
Distribution and Habitats
The Hartebeest can be found in Africa’s savannas and grasslands. They have a wide range of differing areas including wooded areas and arid, desert like plains. They have also been found at higher altitudes on Mount Kenya. The subspecies cover a varying degree of territory.
- Northern Hartebeest was found in northern Africa, but was declared extinct by the IUCN in 1996.
- Red Hartebeest or Cape Hartebeest has a stable, increasing population that is spread throughout Africa due to reintroduction.
- Coke’s Hartebeest is found throughout Central Africa.
- Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest ranges throughout eastern and southern Africa.
- Western Hartebeest ranges from Senegal to Cameroon.
- Swayne’s Hartebeest is found only in Ethiopia, and its population is decreasing.
- Tora Hartebeest is also found in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Adults measure 3.3 feet in height at the shoulder. Males can weigh between 276 to 481 pounds, with females weigh slightly less.
The have a sandy coat with black markings. These markings differ between the subspecies. Their tails measure from 12 to 28 inches long, and have a black tip at the end.
They are also recognizable by their long legs with black markings.
Both males and females have horns. The true difference between the subspecies can be found in their horns. The Red Hartebeest horns are Z-shaped, the Lichtenstein’s are S-shaped, the Swayne’s and Tora’s Hartebeest have wide set horns, the Lelwel’s Hartebeest are V-shaped, and the Western Hartebeest has U-shaped horns.
Hartebeests eat grasses. They also drink very little water.
Behavior and Socialization
Hartebeests form herds that can reach numbers up to 300 members. They are the most sedentary members of the antelope family. Like most ungulates, Hartebeests are calm, however if threatened they will defend themselves and their group. The horns are used to defend from predators and also between males during mating season.
Adults reach sexual maturity at two years of age. Females will gestate for approximately eight months, and usually one calf is born.
The herd is made up of territorial adult males, non-territorial males, young males and females with young. As the male members of the herd age they will often seek out other territories where they can exert their dominance and gain mating rights with females.
Hartebeest herds will only migrate due to extreme hardships such as drought and shortages of food.
Conservation and Threat
They used to be more widespread across Africa, however due to habitat destruction, hunting, competition for food and human encroachment their numbers have fallen. The main threat that they face is due to hunting. They are popular game and are highly valued trophies.
The Red Hartebeest has been reintroduced throughout Africa, and their population’s numbers are the only ones of the subspecies that are climbing.
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Melissa Dallago