Bushbuck

A distinguished bushbuck ram pauses in the woodland savanna.

The handsome bushbuck is the smallest of Southern Africa's medium-sized antelope.

Name:
Bushbuck
Scientific Name:
Tragelaphus Scriptu
Weight
42Kg (M) 28Kg (f)
Shoulder Height:
79cm (M) 69cm (F)
Mating Season:
April, May

Description

Bushbucks greatly resemble lowland nyalas. Male bushbucks are a dark brown color, with slight white stripes down from their back to the middle of their sides and white dots along their sides in no specific pattern. The fur around their knees is black, with the rest of their legs, up and down from their knees, being white and brown. Only males have horns, reaching lengths of up to 57cm. Female bushbucks are a reddish-brown color all-round, also with slight white stripes from their back down to the middle of their sides and white dots on their sides. Males weigh between 40 to 80kg (88 to 176lb) and females between 25 to 60kg (55 to 132lb). Their size is the easiest way to distinguish them from nyalas, along with the habitat in which they are spotted.

Distribution

The natural range of bushbucks covers most of Africa that is not desert. They are found from the Southern half of East Africa, right through the rain forests of the Congo and parts of Sudan to Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and parts of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and South Africa. In South Africa, they can be found along the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal up to the Limpopo River in the north of South Africa. They are found throughout the Kruger National Park where they have flourished, especially in the dense north of the park close the rest camp of Shingwedzi, where they are more abundant than impala.

Status

The bushbuck is the most widely spread of all antelope species within Africa, and is also in a very healthy state when it comes to its populations within its distribution range. Their population is in a very good state, with over one million bushbucks inhabiting most of the continent. This is mainly due to their ability to forage, live and survive within the rain forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as outside of it, a feat few species are able to brag about. Their populations are decreasing in areas where newly established settlements have grown, but their conservation status still remains at 'of least concern'.

Habitat

Bushbucks predominantly browse and enjoy the leaves of shrubs, fruits (especially figs) and flowers, although they also eat new grass. Because of this they are well adapted to forest life, and are found in areas characterized by thicker vegetation and many sources of water which the plants use to grow so prolifically, although they have been seen obtaining enough water from licking the dew off leaves in the morning and are not as reliant on water sources as some of the bigger antelope species that need to drink liters of water a day to survive.

Social Organization

Unlike most other antelope species in its family, such as kudus and nyalas, bushbucks do not form any type of group or herd of a few different members living together, but live solely solitary lives. They are not territorial and there have been observations of bushbucks in Kenya which suggest that a few bushbuck individuals share the same home range or living area, as many as 12 of them. Their atypical behavior when compared to other hooved animal species ends when it comes to mother and young. As always, they regularly keep each other company, both before and after the juvenile is independent.

Social Behavior

Bushbucks, because of their solitary lifestyle, have a lot of alone time and are not particularly social creatures. Studies of bushbuck in the Port Elizabeth area of South Africa have shown that they spent most of their day resting, followed by feeding and roaming. Then in the night they seemed to graze more rather than browsing on leaves and fruits from shrubs and woody plants, but would still also rest a considerable amount, laying down rather than standing to blend in more with the environment and avoid predators spotting them.

Reproduction

Bushbuck like touching each other and spreading their scent as a pre-reproduction ritual, resting their heads on each other, urinating, rubbing against each other and making mating calls. After they successfully breed, the female will carry their offspring for up to 7 months and then give birth to their single young in the thickets they also use for protection and security. The calf will remain there for up to 4 months and will only leave once it reaches puberty at around 11 months of age to start its own journey.

Anti-Predator Behavior

When predators are within close proximity, their odd spots and stripes come into play, camouflaging them very effectively. Bushbucks are, for the most part, undetectable if they want to be. Lions or hyenas passing within a 10m radius of a bushbuck after dark have been observed obliviously walking¬†past, not even noticing the presence of easy prey nearby. If their ‘stand still and blend’ strategy does not work, they go over to the more common flight strategy, sprinting to the nearest cover they are aware of, flashing the bottom white part of their tails.¬†

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