The name “gerenuk” is a Somali word meaning ‘giraffe-necked’. The gerenuk is a species of antelope that is found in the desert scrubs of Eastern Africa.
Gerenuks have small heads that are a contrast in size to their body. More so, their eyes and ears are large, adding to their rather peculiar but endearing beauty.
Only male gerenuks grow horns, and both males and females have a reddish hue to their coats. The underbelly, from the front legs to the hind legs, is pale, a colour that looks almost white.
Like the reticulated giraffe, gerenuks rarely graze. They feed on the tender leaves of bristly trees like acacias, which are very common in the arid and semi-arid plains they inhabit. Unlike other antelopes and gazelles, gerenuks are special in that they can reach higher parts of trees by standing on their hind legs and stretching their extended necks.
This small antelope can do well without water. The leaves they consume provide the water they need, and even during intense heat, they are not often seen drinking water. However, the Ewaso Nyiro River provides sustenance for many animals in the reserve, and it’s a source of water for human communities that live around the park.
Predators that feed on gerenuks include some of the big cats found in the Samburu National Reserve: lion, leopard and cheetah.