The Eland (Taurotragus oryx), Africa’s largest antelope, is one of my favourite souls on earth. It is quite an eye-opener when you first see it. The size hits you straight away and the beauty, outstanding.
A few months ago while driving in the evening along Kiserian-Isinya Road, an eland jumped over our Land Rover. It came out of the bushes with speed, I hit the brakes and steadied for impact but the massive bull rose up and dropped on the other side and continued trotting.
My son, Mayian and I were left in shock. My 12-year old daughter, Timpi, who sat at the back did not even see what happened. My foot was still on breaks – shaking!
Over the months, every time I see an eland, I remembered that incident and last month, a friend from South Africa showed me photos from Maasai Mara of an eland jumping over a safari jeep with lions in pursuit. It got away but left tourists in awe.
My people’s traditions talk of the power of the Eland – it is known to overpower lions, most times injuring them by leaping through and above trees, leaving the predators hanging up there and sometimes killing them in the process.
Before the entrance of modern ropes, the Eland hide was a valuable product. For those who eat wild meat, the Eland has soft, tasty meat.
I did some research and watched a few videos of lion attempts on Elands and latter most times came out the winner, dancing away powerfully, throwing the lions in its wake.
Elands are capable of jumping up to 3 metres from a standing start when startled and can live up to a good 15-20 years. A grown male can stand at 1.6 metres, a weight of 940kgs and females weigh about 600kgs with a height of 1.4 metres. It can run at a max speed for 40kph but can run for a long time at half that speed, thus, making it impossible for predators to keep up.
The last census showed that there are about 136,000 elands in East Africa – mostly Kajiado, Narok, and Laikipia as well as northern Tanzania.
It is a healthy population but these territories are shrinking especially with the continued fencing of ranches in Narok and more so by the wanton destruction of the rangelands by the dreadful act of cutting acacia for charcoal in Kajiado County.
Here are links to videos of Eland vs Lions:
Female Eland too Powerful For Lion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D8g7npbRWE
Lion Hunt Eland at Lewa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7skjfDSWVs
Maasai Mara: Lion vs Bull Eland Encounter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKpuibzPuz4
Eland Bulls – Massive Fight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbt6128kpV8