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Antelope

 

Antelopes are divided into a number of tribes that are based on common attributes found amongst them. The Zoo has many of these tribes such as Duikers, Gazelles, Reedbuck, Horse Antelope, Hartebeest, Impala and Bushbuck. They can often be seen grazing in their enclosure. A keen observer will notice the social structure within a group and the interaction amongst the herd.

Antelopes are distinguished from other hoofed animals as having unbranched horns. Their beautiful horns are used as weapons in combat when males compete for mates. Their horns are arranged in a way that two striking males cannot crack each others skull, making the clash of horns more ritualistic than dangerous. The horns are better developed in species where males fight over females. The Kudu has the longest horns, about 180cm when measured along the curve.

Antelopes are generally grazers and feed mainly on grass and browse. Their social system is a combination of:

Sociable Territorial: Example: Oryxs, Sable, Roan, Waterbuck, Lechwe, Springbok and Bontebok.

Sociable Non-Territorial:. Example: Kudu, Bongo, Eland, Buffalo, Sitatunga and Nyala.

Monogomous Territorial: Example: Blue and Grey Duiker.

Solitary Non-Territorial: Example: Bushbuck.

Most Antelope live in the African savannah, however many Antelope live in forest and some have adapted to desert, mountainous and semi-aquatic areas.

Antelopes are a diverse group which varies between those that live in water, those who are heavily dependant on water and those who are water independent for long periods of time.

Water Dependent: Example: Red Lechwe and Sitatunga.

Water Course Dwellers: Example: Waterbuck.

Regular Water Drinkers: Bushbuck

Water Independent: Examples Eland, Kudu, Springbok and Oryx.

Antelopes have to be wary of predators. They use their keen senses, agility and camouflage to avoid predators. Their eyes are strategically placed on the side of their head giving them a broad radius of vision. Their acute sense of smell and hearing gives them the ability to perceive danger.

If under attack, Antelopes use a number of defense strategies. Large Antelope gather in herds and rely on numbers, running speed and mob attacks. In some species, adults encircle their young to protect them from predators. Forest Antelope have large ears and their dark striped colouring allows them to camouflage and hide away from predators. Small Antelopes such as Duikers jump into dense bush where predators cannot pursue them.

Open grassland Antelope tend to be very fast runners, their agility and endurance are advantages against many predators. Springbok use a defence mechanism called stotting, they spring into the air by lifting all four feet off the ground. Stotting is used to show predators the Springboks fitness and discourages its pursuit. Cheetahs are known to abandon more hunts when a Springbok slots, and if they do give chase, they are far less likely to make a kill. Slotting is also used to display fitness information to potential mates.

Meet some of the Zoo�s Antelopes:

Bongo
Bongos are the largest sociable forest Antelopes and very distinctly marked. They have a deep chestnut colour and bright white stripes on their sides. This helps them camouflage and hide from pray. Both sexes have heavy spiral horns. The males horns are heavier and longer, as they age their horns become darker.

In order to maneuver through the dense vegetation, Bongos tilt their chin up causing their horn to lie flat on their back.

Cape Buffalo
The Cape Buffalo is one of the Greater Antelopes. They can reach a height of up to 170cm and weigh up to 870kg. Both male and female Cape Buffalo have horns. A characteristic feature of them is the adult Bulls (male) horns have fused bases which forms a continous bone shield called �boss� the boss cannot always be penetrated even by a rifle bullet. From the base the horns diverge and bend down then smoothly curve upwards and outwards. The horns of a male is larger then a female.

The adage an elephant never forgets would be matched by a buffalo never forgives. They have been known to attack people that have harmed them even years after the event.

Bushbuck
Bushbuck are the only solitary non-territorial South African Antelope. Sub adult rams are a deep chestnut brown which darkens with age. A few white spots on the flanks and a crest of yellow hair runs down its back. They are the masters of camouflage and can stay absolutely still until the last minute. If seen all the major predators will try to attack them, however they are efficient at bounding through the bush.

Only the males have horns and are significantly bigger and darker than the females.

The bushbuck ram is regarded by sports hunters as the most dangerous medium-size antelope, as it will hide in the bush after being wounded and charge the hunter when he comes looking for it, impaling the hunter with its sharp horns.

Gemsbok
These are one of the best marked Antelopes. They are light brownish to grey tan in colour with long black tails. A blackish stripe extends from their chin towards the lower edge of the neck, through the shoulder and leg along the lower flank of each side to the blackish section of the rear leg. They have white �socks� with a black patch on the front of both legs. Both genders have long straight horns. Females have longer, thinner horns with a slight outward and rearward curve. Females use their horns to defend themselves and their offspring from predators, while males use their horns to defend their territory.

Gemsboks have the ability to dig for plants below the surface of sand or soil and are well adapted to desert conditions.

Grey Duiker
As with all Duiker species, the Grey Duiker is named after their habitat. When disturbed they make off at high speeds in a series of plunging jumps and diving (duik-Afrikaans word meaning dive) for cover. These small Antelopes stand at about 50cm at the shoulder, the females are slightly taller than the males.

Grey Duiker are resilient when it comes to survival. It will always find a place to hide and it will eat almost anything and thrive on it.

Impala
The name Impala comes from the Zulu word meaning Gazelle and is the most common Antelope in South Africa. They have a short glossy coat which is normally reddish brown in colour. They have lighter flanks and white underbellies with a characteristic 'M' marking the rear, it has distinctive black and white stripes running down the rump and tail. Only the males have horns which can reach up to 45-92cm

Known for their leaps, Impala can jump about 10 feet high and when running about 33 feet ahead.

Kudu
Greater Kudus have a brown/bluish grey to reddish brown coat. They have between 4-12 vertical white stripes along their bodies. Their head is darker in colour then the rest of their body with a small white chevron which runs between their eyes.

Only the males have horns and are larger than the females in size. When straightened their horns cab reach an average length of 120cm. Their horns do not begin to grow until the male is between the age of 6-12 months old, their horns begin to twist at the age of 2 and at the age of 6 their horns reach a full two and a half twists. Occasionally the horns reach 3 full turns.

Nyala
This spiral horned Antelope is native to Southern Africa. The females and juveniles have a rusty brown coat. As the males grow older their coat becomes dark brown or grey tinged with blue. Females and young males have ten or more white stripes on their sides. Only the males have horns which are 60-83cm long and yellow tipped.

The scientific name for the Nyala is Nyala Angasii. Angasii is named after the French artist and naturalist George French Angas.

Sitatunga
The Sitatunga stands at about one and a half metres at the shoulder and have a water-proof coat. Males have a dark brown coat while females are reddish brown coat. Both sexes have white stripes and spots as well as white splotches on their faces. Only males have horns which are twisted and can reach almost 1m in length.

Sitatunga are water specialist, they can outrun predators in water with the aid of their splayed hooves.They are also vulnerable to human and other predators, they form permanent pathways in the swamps which are easily ambushed.

Lord Derby Eland
Also known as the Giant Eland, this is the largest species of antelope in the world. They have a body length between 2.2 and 3.45 m, a tail length of 90 cms, and they weigh between 300 and 1,000 kgs. Depending on their sex, Giant Elands differ greatly in size, males can grow to almost double the weight of females, and can reach up to 1.8 m at the shoulder.

The coat of the Giant Eland is reddish-brown in colour and is usually darker in males. The torso features 8 -12 well defined vertical white stripes. The colour of the male's coat darkens with age, and it has been stated that the darkness of the coat reflects the levels of androgen in the body. Androgen is a male hormone which is highest during rutting.

Both male and females have tightly spiraled, 'V'-shaped horns. They can be up to 123 cm long on males, and 66 cm on females. Males have horns that are thicker at the ends, longer, and more divergent than those of females.

Giant Eland can move quickly, running at over 43 mph, and despite their size are exceptional jumpers, easily clearing heights of 1.5 m.

Giraffe
The Giraffe holds the record as the worlds tallest animal. Distinguished by its long neck and legs, a fully grown Giraffe can stand at 5-6metres tall. Male are taller then females.

The Giraffes coat is made of dark patches which can be orange to chestnut brown or nearly black, these patches are separated by light white or cream colour hair. Male Giraffes become darker as they age. Each Giraffe has a unique coat pattern much like a human fingerprint.
Both males and females have horn like structures called ossicones, this is formed by ossified cartlidge covered in skin and fused to the skull. The ossicones of the female and young are thin and have tufts of hair on the top. The ossicones on males end in knobs and are usually bold on the top. As the males' age their skulls become heavier and more club like, this helps them become more dominant in combat.
The name Giraffe has its earliest origins in the Arabic word zarafa which is translated into 'fast walker'

Blackbuck
The Blackbuck is well known for their large horns which generally curl about five times and have pronounced ridges near the tips. Their horns are 50-61cm long with the record being 71.5cm.
There is a striking contrast between males and females. Both genders start out as a light brown, but at around two years of age the males slowly darken to a rich chocolate or black colour. Both genders have white stripe along their chest and underside, but only the males have the long twisted horn that the Blackbuck is famously known for.

The Blackbuck is also only surviving species of the Antelope population. Their ancestor, including the Antilope intermedius, Antilope subtorta, and Antilope planicornis, are all extinct, leaving only a few fossilized remains behind.

Bontebok
The Bontebok is a medium-sized, generally dark brown antelope with a prominent, wide white blaze on its face. Their hair is soft and has an iridescent sheen, It has a pure white rump, belly and hocks, and black-tipped tail. Both sexes have horns, although the horns of the male are heavier and longer than those of females. The horns of Bontebok are lyre-shaped and clearly ringed and can reach a length of half a metre.
The Bontebok was once considered to be the rarest antelope in the world but careful conservation has ensured its survival. Today the Bontebok is only found in protected areas in South Africa.

Bontebok are not good jumpers, but they are very good at crawling under things. Mature males form territories and face down other males in displays and occasionally combat.

Eland
Common Eland can be found in parts of Southern Africa and extends north into Ethiopia, parts of Sudan, Angola and Namibia. Their coats differ geographically, Eland in North Africa have stripes on their torso, markings on their legs, dark garters and a spinal crest. Eland in the south do not have these markings. Females have a tan coat while males are darker bluish-grey tinge. As males age they coats become grey, Males also have dense fur on their forheads and a large dewlap on their throats.

Both sexes have horns which is visible at birth and grow rapidly during the first 6-7 months. The horns of males are thicker and shorter than the females and have a tighter spiral.

The eland is the largest African bovid, but the slowest antelope. It can only run about 25 mph, but it can jump 10 feet from a standing start.

Red Lechwe
Red Lechwe have a golden brown coat with white bellies and white patches around their eyes. The males are darker than the females and have long spiral almost lyre shaped horns. Their hind leg is longer than other Antelopes and is covered in a water repellent substance which allows them to run fast in knee length water.

This robust long haired Antelope is a fast swimmer and will not hesitate to dive into water if it is being pursued.

Arabian Oryx
The Arabian Oryx is a graceful, white antelope with black markings on the face and legs. The white coat reflects the sun and the dark legs absorb heat from the ground during cold mornings. A short mane runs from head to shoulders; the tail is tufted, and males sport a tuft on the throat. Both sexes have long, straight horns which are about 22-58 inches in length. The Arabian Oryx is keen sighted, wary and alert, and defends itself by lowering its head so the horns point forward.

Arabian Oryx were hunted as trophies and by 1972 disappeared from the wild. In 1982 Arabian Oryx bred in captivity were reintroduced into the wild. Reintroduction continues today with the goal of restoring the Arabian Oryx back in the wild.

Scimitar Horned Oryx
Scimitar Horned Oryx are mostly white with reddish brown necks and marks on the face and a long, dark, tufted tail. The white coat helps reflect the heat of the desert.

The most distinctive feature are the two scimitar or sickle-shaped horns. Found in both sexes, these virtually ridgeless, thin horns curve up and over the back, growing 100-125 cm in length. Due to their thinness, the horns are fairly fragile and are prone to breaking.

Scimitar Horned Oryx have an interesting way of coping with a water shortage. They are able to raise their body temperature by several degrees to conserve water by avoiding sweating.

Southern Reedbuck
An elegant antelope of Africa's grasslands, the southern reedbuck can be identified by the distinctive dark lines that run down the front of each of its forelegs and lower hindlegs. The colour of its coat varies between light brown to greyish-brown, often turning lighter on the neck and chest. White fur defines the underparts and area around the lips and chin, while a distinctive black patch below each ear is the site of a gland. The short, bushy tail is white on its underside. Only Male southern reedbucks have forward-curving horns, which measure between 30 and 45 centimetres, and are ridged for most of their length except for the smooth tip.

The southern reedbuck makes a number of characteristic noises, including a piercing whistle through the nostrils, and a distinctive 'popping' sound, caused by the inguinal glands which is heard when the southern reedbuck jumps.

Sable Antelope
The handsome Sable Antelope is the national animal of Zimbabwe. The females are chestnut to dark brown, darkening as they mature, while males are distinctively black. Both sexes have white underbellies, white cheeks and white chins. They have shaggy manes on the back of their necks. Sable antelope have ringed horns which arch backward, in females these can reach 1 m, but in males they can reach over 1.1 m. Males are larger then females.

Sable Antelopes are aggressive when it comes to danger. Other antelope back off meekly when the Sable Antelope approaches, and spotted hyaenas, wild dogs, cheetahs and leopards are very reluctant to challenge this courageous and dangerous fighter.
Even lions have been known to come off second best; gored to death by those deadly horns.

Springbok
The Springbok is an Afrikaans/Dutch name. Spring meaning Jump and Bok meaning Buck.

Their striking body colour makes them easily recognizable. They have a cinnamon coloured upper body, white underparts and a broad dark brown stripe on either flank stretching from the front legs to the rear legs. The short white tail is brown tufted. The rump is marked by a triangular-shaped white patch, framed by a dark brown stripe with the apex on the top of the hindquarters. Horns of females are more slender and shorter than those of males.

The Springbok is a symbol of the South African National rugby team. It can leap up to 9m in the air when startled and can run at speeds of 60mph

Waterbuck
Despite their name, Waterbuck are not fond of swimming. They are found near water and will only wade into the water to hide from predators.
This is a large, robust antelope. Males have a shoulder height of 1.4 metres and can weigh up to 260 Kg. Females are smaller. Waterbucks have a brownish-grey shaggy coat. The eyes and nose are patched with white, and there is a white collar under the throat. The rump has a characteristic white ring. The large rounded ears are a prominent feature. Only the males have long, forward curved horns which are ringed and can grow up to 1metre long in the oldest male. Both sexes emit a pleasant, musky smell which normally lingers at resting sites.

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