STORY OF WESTERN DERBY ELAND


Western Derby eland (Taurotragus derbianus derbianus)  is one of the most endangered animal in the world. The breeding programme in two private Senegalese reserves is the great hope for this antelope. The number of Derby elands managed by our team together with our partners overreached 100 animals in these reserves. 

The Derby eland together with the common eland (Taurotragus oryx, Pallas, 1766) is one of the largest antelopes of the world. Males can grow as tall as 180 cm at the withers, females are smaller, around 150 cm at the withers. The lenght of the body can reach 220 - 290 cm, males weigh from 450 - 907 kg, females around 440 kg. Both sexes are horned, their helical horns are coiled. Males have more robust and longer horns that could grow 80 - 123 cm in lenght.

The Derby eland (Taurotragus derbianus) has two subspecies, differing in the area of occupancy and threat levels.

The Eastern Derby eland (Taurotragus derbianus gigas, Heuglin, 1863) was originally distributed in the area reaching from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zair) to Sudan and Uganda. Present day this subspecies can be found in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Sudan. The Eastern Derby eland is listed as Vulnerable - VU.

The wild Western Derby eland (Taurotragus derbianus derbianus, Gray, 1847) can be found only in the Niokolo Koba National Park in southeastern Senegal and its numbers are extremely low - there are less than 200 animals left. There are few dozens living in captivity, in the Bandia and Fathala Reserves in western Senegal. The Western Derby eland is therefore one of the largest antelopes of the world and also one of the most critically endangered species of our planet.

In the beginning of the 20th century the Western subspecies of the Derby eland was distributed in Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Sierra Leone, Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, Togo and Ghana. In 1990 the numbers of the Western Derby eland were estimated to be around 1000 animals, majority of them living in the Niokolo Koba National Park in Senegal andin the Falémé area. According to present-day estimates there are last 100 - 200 animals left, living in the Niokolo Kobe National Park. The most harmful impacts are poaching, cattle grazing, illegal logging and othe human related activities.

The Derby eland inhabits tree savanna, a habitat found southward of Sahara from Senegal to Uganda. They are browsers - that means their food composes mainly of tree and bush leaves and shoots, to lesser extent of fruits, herbs and grass. Their food spectrum is very wide and can count more than 30 species of plants.

Whereas the more abundant Eastern subspecies is bred in several zoos in the United States of America and in the South African Republic, the Western subspecies can be found in Senegal only. With respect to the high threat level a conservation programme for the Western Derby eland has been established. This conservation programme is managed by the NGO Derbianus Conservation in cooperation with the Senegal side. 6 animals that had been captured in the wild (in the Niokolo Kobe National Park) in 2000 were transported to the conservation reserves in Bandia and Fathala, where they have been reproducing successfully. Thanks to the NGO Derbianus Conservation and its partners, there are now more than 100 animals living in these two reserves.