Greater kudu

Tragelaphus strepsiceros

TAXONOMY

Tragelaphus strepsiceros (Pallas, 1766), Cape of Good Hope, South Africa; or Namibia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Grand koudou; German: Grosskudu.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Body length males 76.7-96.4 in (195-245 cm), females 72.8-92.5 in (185-235 cm); shoulder height males 47.2-59 in (120-150 cm), females 47.2-55.1 in (120-140 cm); tail length males 13.7-21.6 in (35-55 cm), females same; weight males 496-694.6 lb (225-315 kg), females 396.8-473.9 lb (180-215 kg). Sexual dimorphism is moderate, with females being are 5% shorter in length than males and weigh 27% less than males. Males have longest horns in all the Bovinae, extending 66 in (168 cm) or longer in a double spiral; females normally lack horns, but occasionally some individuals have very small ones. The general pelage color is brown and there are several thin, widely spaced vertical stripes along the body from shoulders to rump; the number of stripes depends upon the subspecies. Adult males also have a notably grayish neck. There is a pronounced gray mane hanging from the neck and a band of longer, darker hair running along the spine from the neck to the rump, but most prominently over the shoulders. This ridge of hairs can be erected to form a narrow crest outlining the back. The head has a white strip across the rostrum (nose), just below the eyes. The moderately long tail is white beneath with a black tip.

DISTRIBUTION

Found widely distributed in Africa, occurring in southern Chad, northern areas of the Central African Republic, western and eastern Sudan, northeast Uganda, Ethiopia, and Somalia, and then south and southwest to South Africa, Namibia, Angola, and southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The species has been extirpated in many regions of its former range, and the current main stronghold is South Africa with some major areas of representation in East Africa.

HABITAT

Favors open woodlands with scattered and dense brush, and is found where such vegetation occurs, including plains, rocky hills, and low mountains. It requires brushy thickets for resting cover, and can be found along the wooded banks of dry river courses. Generally, they prefer habitats that provide concealment.

BEHAVIOR

Females form small herds typically of 6-12 individuals, including young, although some form with up to 20 members, consisting of females, their young, and subadult males. Larger groups up 40 will form temporarily. Mature males join these female groups during the mating season, but otherwise live separately for most of the year, either singly or with other males in rather loose groups consisting of up to 10 males.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Primarily browsers, consuming leaves and twigs of a great variety of shrubs and trees, including the seed pods of acacias. They will also periodically consume grasses and forbs.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygynous. Reproduction is tied closely to seasonal patterns of rain. Females give birth to a single young after a gestation period that has been estimated to be 7-9 months. Young spend most of the day hidden while their mothers go elsewhere to feed. After about two weeks, young join the herd but continue to hide, mainly at night, for another month.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Classified as Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent. Kudu populations were decimated at the beginning of the twentieth century by Rinderpest epidemics. As a result, the species was greatly reduced across much of its range and extirpated in some regions. Since then, it has reoccupied much of its former range in South Africa. However, in East Africa, loss of habitat at lower elevations has restricted the species to certain areas, including many protected parks and reserves.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Hunted by local peoples for meat. Male greater kudu are much sought-after by trophy hunters because of their large impressive horns. It is also a favorite zoo animal because its impressive size, interesting pelage, and unusual horns appeal to visitors. ♦

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