Klipspringer

Oreotragus oreotragus

TAXONOMY

Antilope oreotragus (Zimmermann, 1783), Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. Eleven proposed subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Oreotrague; German: Klippspringer.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Small, compact antelope with rounded hindquarters and blunt muzzle. Walks on tips of extended hooves. Length 32-39 in (82-100 cm); height 18-24 in (45-60 cm); weight 20-35 lb (9-16 kg). Fur is coarse, hollow, and tawny to gray in appearance. Underside and ear linings light gray to white. Horns straight and annulated in males, up to 6 in (15 cm) in length, though typically no longer than 3.5 in (9 cm). Unique among Neotraginae, females of some populations are horned.

DISTRIBUTION

Patchily distributed in rocky and mountainous terrain from northern Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, south through Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania into central and southern Africa. The largest populations today occur in Namibia.

HABITAT

Rocky hillsides, cliffs, and ravines from sea level to 14,800 ft (4,500 m) and at a broad range of temperature and rainfall regimes. Vegetation type is considerably less important than access to steep, rocky slopes for escape and cover. Occur at densities up to 36 per mi2 (14 per km2) in ideal habitats, but more often seen at densities of 0.3-0.8 per mi2 (0.1-0.3 per km2).

BEHAVIOR

Nimble and fast, supremely adapted for life in rocky terrain. Fiercely territorial, territory boundaries are scent marked routinely by all family members by placing feces, urine, and pre-orbital gland secretions in highly visible areas. Physical aggression exhibited as fights and chases are common and occur between both sexes. Bonds between monogamous pairs are strong and often last years. Vigilance is shared among group members and they signal the approach of a predator with an alarm whistle.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Selective browsers, prefer leaves, buds, flowers, fruits, and seeds with high-protein, low-fiber content. Up to 90% of diet consists of fruit and flowers in wet season, while leaves of shrubs, trees, and sometimes grasses form larger portion of diet in dry seasons. Will leave the safety of rocky terrain to feed or drink during harshest times of the year.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The typical breeding group is a male-female pair on a territory 3.5-22 acres (1.4-9 ha) in size. Monagamous pairs are sometimes joined in a territory by one or two un-dispersed offspring. Estrus is thought to last roughly one week and gestation is estimated at five months, after which one lamb is born. Newborns lay hidden for up to three months before joining parents and are weaned at four months. Seasonality of reproduction varies across the broad geographic range of this species, but is generally coordinated with rainy seasons.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent. Their preference for steep, rocky habitats and their ability to detect and avoid predators (human or otherwise) has allowed this species to avoid the common pitfalls of habitat loss and over hunting. However, the subspecies O. o. porteousi represents an exception and is classed as Endangered where it occurs in Nigeria and the Central African Republic. Predictable routes of travel by animals also makes snaring an effective and potentially devastating form of hunting.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Sturdiness and agility have made it a popular mascot and hero in traditional and modern African folklore. It has little economic value through much of its geographic range and its meat is not generally preferred. It comprises a relatively small part of the bushmeat trade in Nigeria. ♦

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