Facts about Antelopes in Southern Africa
Antelopes are part of the large group of horn carriers (bovidae). In contrast to the animals carrying antlers, they have their horns lifelong. In most of the species only the male has horns, in some they are common to both genders. Of the gracious impalas (top) alone, the most widely spread species, there are an estimated 100,000 individuals living in South Africa, mainly in the Kruger Park.
An herbivorous species, the impala has adapted to graze and browse, thereby maximising the availability of food. Impala (Aepyceros melampus) will feed on grasses and herbs, as well as the leaves of bushes and shrubs. They are a very athletic antelope able to execute jumps of 2 m high and 10 m in distance, which suites their wooded environment, as the can easily clear shrubs and bushes in flight. Impalas sometimes employ a ‘rocking horse gait’ , rocking the body backwards and forwards while jumping to supposedly display health and fitness to their pursuer in an effort to dissuade a further pursuit from the wood be predator.
The greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) is a handsome antelope that is easily distinguished by the male’s spectacular spiral horns, which can reach astonishing lengths of over a metre. It can also be identified by the six to ten thin, pale stripes against its tawny to grey-brown body.
The female greater kudu is smaller than male, and lacks the impressive horns. The coat colour of the female is also somewhat different, varying from sandy yellowish-grey to russet, against which the thin stripes are conspicuous. Both sexes have a crest of hair that runs …
They live in small herds of up to 24 kudu individuals. The kudu herds mainly consist of females and their calves as male kudus tend to solitary and only come together with other kudus when it is time to mate. It has been known that groups of up to 8 male kudus will form a herd but this is very rare.
Nyalas (Tragelaphus angasii) are seldom far from water in habitats where there are stands of thick grass and other cover. Nyalas are spiral-horned antelopes, and are therefore more closely related to cattle and bison than the grazing antelopes and gazelles.
They are nocturnal browsers, eating fresh leaves and buds. They resort to eating grasses and other low-quality foods only during dry periods. These antelopes live in small herds of about 20 individuals. Nyala are very shy, and are very cautious when approaching open spaces. Most sightings of wild nyala are at water holes.
They are most active during the early morning and late afternoon, resting in thick brush during the hottest times of the day.
This photogenic antelope boasts a number of evolutionary adaptations that have made it a major success in the bushveld environment.
As the name suggests, these animals are very water dependent and will never be seen too far from a permanent water source. They have been known to evade predators by rushing into water as the predatory cats, such as lions and leopards, are very reluctant to get themselves wet – even if it means missing out on a meal.
Waterbuck (Lobus ellipsiprymnus) have a lot of hair around their necks neck making them look as if they should be living in much colder climates, but there is a functionality to this hair as it is all hollow. The hollow hair allows for extra buoyancy when swimming, helping the waterbuck to keep their heads above the water.
The common reedbuck (Redunca arundinum) was formerly distributed widely throughout Southern Africa, with the exception of the arid western parts of the country. Today its range is limited to KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga.Populations in the highlands and midlands of KwaZulu-Natal are particularly strong, where the species is flourishing under modern farmland conditions.
Despite some crop damage problems attributable to reedbuck, this is a popular farm game animal.Adults occupy small home ranges and are easily seen; they breed prolifically and produce a good harvestable surplus of animals and as far as is known, give rise to no domestic stock disease problems.
Bushbuck or Imbabala
The Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) is a very unusual specimen of the antelope family. It has several distinguishing characteristics that make it stand out from the herd, so to speak. An unusual coat, feisty temper and odd gait are amongst the traits that make the Bushbuck such a fascinating creature. Instead of living on open grasslands and savannas, as many of its cousins do, the Bushbuck is a forest-dwelling antelope.
Because the Bushbuck is a forest-dwelling antelope, it is a browser, not a grazer. While grass certainly isn’t off the menu, the Bushbuck’s main diet consists of buds, shrubs and herbs, with the occassional snack of fruits, tubers and flowers thrown into the mix as well.
The springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) is South Africa’s national animal. They are a medium sized antelope found in the dry areas of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and parts of Angola.
When jumping, springboks bounce continuously into the air with a rounded back and all four feet off the ground. This behaviour is called stotting or pronking, from the Afrikaans word pronk or to “show off.” There are a few explanations for this impressive display of agility. The first suggests that when a springbok sees a predator, they pronk to demonstrate to the predator that they are in good health and will be too difficult to catch and not worth the effort. The second theory suggests that pronking is a demonstration of fitness of males to females to win the right to mate.
The grey duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia) is typical of its group, with rather slender legs, a slightly hunched back and a smooth, glossy coat. Both male and female have small backwardpointing horns, which are sometimes obscured by the crest of hairs on the forehead. Duikers are timid and when disturbed dash for thick cover – the name duiker means “diving” buck. They are mainly active at night when they feed on grass, leaves and fruit, even scrambling up into bushes or on logs to reach them.
Grey duiker graze in the early morning, late afternoon and sometimes even at night. During the rest of the day, they rest to help keep cool, especially when it is very hot. It’s not uncommon to see a grey duiker a few metres back from the roadside in long grass or low shrubs when you least expect it.
(Raphicerus campestris) This tiny little antelope always manages to draw out a long “aaaahhhhh” from our guests as they all assume it is a baby. In fact when fully grown the steenbok, (also referred to as “steenbuck”), is only about 60cm at the shoulders. They are highly territorial and can have territories as small as 900 square metres, which is only 30m x 30m. Such a small territory will have to contain some high quality food.