Wildebeests inhabit the plains and open woodlands of parts of Africa south of the Sahara. The black wildebeest is native to the southernmost parts of the continent. Its historical range included South Africa, Eswatini and Lesotho, but in the latter two countries it was hunted to extinction in the 19th century.
Due to widespread hunting, the black wildebeest no longer occupies its historic range or migrates and is now largely restricted to game herds and protected reserves. The blue wildebeest is native to eastern and southern Africa.
Its range includes Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Eswatini and Angola. It is no longer found in Malawi but has been successfully reintroduced to Namibia. Blue wildebeest are found primarily in short-grass plains bordering scrub-covered acacia savannahs, thriving in areas that are neither too wet nor too dry.
The black wildebeest has been classified as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature on the IUCN Red List. In 2017, it was believed that there were more than 18,000 individuals left, 7,000 of which were in Namibia, outside their natural range, and where they were being farmed.
About 80% of wildebeest live in private areas, while the remaining 20% are confined to protected areas.
What are the most serious dangers that threaten Wildebeest
The blue wildebeest numbers one of the subspecies, the eastern white-bearded wildebeest has seen a steep decline.
The population density varies from 0.15/km2. In Hwange and Etosha National Parks at 35/km2 in Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park. The biggest threat comes from migration barriers, such as fences and roads.
In one of the most striking examples of the consequences of the construction of fences on land migrations, the Botswana authorities have placed thousands of kilometers of fences across the Kalahari which have prevented the wildebeest from reaching waterholes and pastures, causing the death of dozens of thousands of individuals, reducing the wildebeest population to less than 10% of its previous size.
Illegal hunting is a major conservation concern in many areas, along with natural threats posed by major predators. Where the black and blue wildebeest share a common range, the two may hybridize and this is considered a potential threat to the black wildebeest.