Steenbok

Raphicerus campestris

TAXONOMY

Raphicerus campestris campestris (Thunberg, 1811), Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. Seven proposed subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Steenbuck, steinbuck, steinbok; French: Steenbok; German: Steinbockchen; Spanish: Steenbok.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Slender, graceful antelope, third largest of the neotragines but still only 18-24 in (45-60 cm) tall, 28-35 in length (70-90 cm), and weighing 18-33 lb (8-15 kg). Body color ranges from light beige to reddish brown; belly, chest, chin, and ear-linings are white to off-white. Large ears and short tail; horns are sharp, thin, and upright in males, up to 6 in (15 cm) in length.

DISTRIBUTION

Displays two distinct distributions, with the first in East Africa in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, and the second in southern Africa from Angola and Zambia south to the Cape of South Africa. The largest populations today occur in Namibia and Botswana.

HABITAT

Varies from desert scrub habitats near the Kalahari to moist mountain forests in Kenya. Generally occurs in bushy or scrubby areas of open habitats such as dry mixed savannas and grassland plains. Areas cleared by fire, heavy grazing, logging, or for cultivation are quickly occupied. Densities in optimal habitats are as high as 10 animals per mi2 (4 per km2), but more typical densities are 1-2 per mi2 (0.3-1.0 per km2).

BEHAVIOR

Highly territorial, both sexes actively defend the territory by chasing same-sex intruders and by scent marking with urine, feces, and secretions of the pre-orbital, pedal, and other glands. Vocalizations between individuals include goat-like bleats, whistles, and growls. Typically drops to the ground and freezes as a first response to approaching danger and flees in a zig-zag pattern if the threat moves near.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Primarily a browser, it will often feed near ground level on roots and low shrubs, but also shoots, flowers, and fruits of trees; commonly eats soil for its nutrient content. Desert-adapted, it can survive with little or no access to open water. Water balance is maintained by selection of plants of high water content and inactivity during hottest times of the day. Animals are active in day and night in wetter habitats and are most active nocturnally in very dry areas.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Adults are solitary or occur as pairs, and rarely as small, polyg-ynous groups, on territories of 10-37 acres (4-15 ha). Breeding pairs are sometimes stable for several years. Mating is followed by gestation of about 170 days, at which time one lamb is born. Young lay hidden for three to five months before joining their mother. Birth commonly coincides with rainy seasons. Females in some areas have been observed to breed twice per year.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Lower Risk/Least Concern. Declining in unprotected parts of its range where it suffers from overhunting, but it is stable and well represented in protected areas. Overall, the outlook for the species appears good if protected areas remain intact. Like other neotragines, this species is vulnerable to predation by domestic dogs.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Included in traditional African folklore, skin used for drums, traditional clothing, and crafts. Meat is considered to be of good quality by humans; this species is eaten throughout its range. ♦

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