Nile lechwe

Kobus megaceros

TAXONOMY

Antilope megaceros (Fitzinger, 1855), Sobat River, Bahr-el-Ghazal, Sudan. Monotypic.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Mrs. Gray's lechwe; French: Cobe leche du Nil; German: Nile litschi; Spanish: Lechwe de Nilo.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Body length 4.5-5.5 ft (135-165 cm); shoulder height 2.6-3.5 ft (80-105 cm); tail 18-20 in (45-50 cm); 132-264 lb (60-120

kg); horns 18-35 in (45-87 cm) long. Males have chocolate brown coat with white shoulder patches; females' coat is uniformly rufous in color.

DISTRIBUTION

Most wild populations occur in the Sudd ecosystem of southern Sudan. Smaller populations in the Machar marshes of the upper Nile near Ethiopia and in Ethiopia (Gambella National Park).

HABITAT

Almost entirely in floodplains, freshwater marshes, and swamps.

BEHAVIOR

Expert waders and swimmers, they move in leaps through water too shallow to swim through. One male may control a harem herd of 50 or more females. Males may utter squeaky grunts when fighting, which they often do in water. Females give toad-like croaks when on the move.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Eats grasses and water plants.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygynous. Gestation period 7-8 months; young weaned after four months. Females sexually mature 1.5 years, males at 2.5 years. Lifespan at least 10 years.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Lower Risk/Near Threatened. The wild population is estimated at 30,000-40,000 animals (almost 95% of these in the Sudd), and is potentially jeopardized by water development projects that reduce their habitat. The remoteness of the Sudd protects them from most forms of commercial or trophy hunting.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Hunted where populations are accessible to people. ♦

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