Though a 'common' antelope, a sighting of the common reedbuck is far less common and quite exciting.
Common reedbucks are very similar to their mountain-roaming family members, with a few slight differences between them. The horns of common reedbucks - or southern reedbucks, as they are also called - are angled outwards, curving forward slightly at the tips and grow to be slightly larger than mountain reedbucks. Their build overall is bigger and more muscular, with larger necks and shoulders. Their necks and faces are a lighter shade of brown, something the two species share. Their average weight is around 58kg (128lb) amongst both sexes, with females averaging at 48kg (106lb) and males at 68kg (150lb). The horns of males grow to be up to 45cm (18 inches), while horns are absent amongst females.
The common reedbuck occurs widely throughout parts of Sub-Equatorial Africa as far south as Swaziland, and parts of the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. Their range continues on the western side of Africa just north of Namibia and Botswana, in countries that include Angola, Zambia and Malawi. On the eastern coast of Africa, they can be found right through from the already named KwaZulu-Natal province, to parts of Mozambique, ranging inland over areas of the Limpopo where the Kruger National Park is situated, and more north through Zimbabwe and right across to southern parts of Tanzania.
The current status of this species of antelope is classified as 'of least concern' per the IUCN red list. The large population of 73 000 individual animals stretches over 14 countries within Sub-Saharan Africa, and two thirds of this population is found within protected areas just like the Kruger National Park. The altitudes they can be found at are between 1 800 and 2 000m above sea level, on the plateaus and mainland areas vulnerable to settlement expansion. Their convenient size and relatively slow top speed make them ideal targets for illegal hunting or poaching, which poses the greatest threat to the survival of the species.
This species is one of the few which appreciate and even prefer taller grass on which to feed. This means that they can most easily be found in valleys rich with water for grass to flourish upon, or near wetlands, although they do also occur in areas with less grass cover, such as floodplains and savanna or woodland areas. Grass dominates their diet, as they mainly graze. They do occur in the Drakensberg Mountains, in addition to the northern parts of South Africa like the Kruger Park, because of the abundance of grasslands.
These territorial creatures are not very social, and live in small groups of up to 6 members on average, but may combine with other groups during the dry season when the pastures on which they graze upon become a scarcer and scarcer commodity within their respective territories. Such a group has a supreme male who owns mating rights to all the female members of the group as long as they remain there, and a few young, male and female. Juvenile males nearing the last few months of their adolescence are kicked from the group and then join all-male groups until such time that they can battle and compete for territory.
Common reedbucks are among the most relaxed territorial animals in existence. Like their highland cousins, they do not scent mark, and thus patrol their borders instead. The difference is that common reedbucks have frequently been seen trespassing on the territory of their neighbors, some 100 meters from the border line - without trouble, for the most part. Furthermore, they produce many different calls and vocalizations of which most are very high pitched and are used in situations of conflict.
They have no structured annual breeding season that happens at a certain time during the year, although they do breed annually. Courtship does take place between a breeding pair, and typically involves actions like low-back stretching performed by males, along with empty licking and also licking the genitals of the female. Hereafter, a few mounts on the male’s part may take place and be interrupted by the female if she decides the action is finished. The ultimate target of this tiring exercise is to see that a few new faces will appear roughly 7 and half months later.
The vulnerability of reedbucks in general makes them some of the most hysterical vocalists when the thought of danger even pops up in their heads. When an attack is launched upon them or even anticipated by odd sounds coming from in between thickets and shrubs, they usually respond first by making a whistling sound to alert other members of the potential threat, and then running with some urgency. They also make a snorting sound while running further, either to disrupt the habitat in an attempt to get away or to continue alerting other animals of the danger - if they have not already picked it up.
Travel to South Africa for an in-depth exploration of the 'world in one country'.
Botswana is a nature enthusiast's paradise, with ample wilderness areas.
Namibia is a vast desert country with unique destinations like Sossusvlei.
Zambia's pristine safari areas are underrated and under-explored.
Travel to Zimbabwe for an awe-inspiring look at the majestic Victoria Falls.
Mozambique's 1000km of coastline boasts some truly spectacular beaches.