Sitatunga Antelope

Sitatunga Antelope

Mammalia

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: sitatunga antelope
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Artiodactyla
FAMILY: Bovidae
GENUS SPECIES: Tragelaphus (goat like deer) spekii (African explorer Speke)

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: Medium-sized antelope of brownish color; males are darker, usually gray to dark brown, while the females are more typically reddish to chocolate brown; have white spots on cheeks, thighs, throat, and between eyes; males also have an erect spinal crest along the entire length of the neck and back; only males possess horns; both sexes have 6-8 white vertical stripes which are important for camouflage
SIZE:  
MALE 88-125 cm (35-50 in)
FEMALE 75-90 cm (30-36 in)
WEIGHT:
MALE 70-124 kg (154-275 lbs)
FEMALE 50-57 kg (110-124 lbs)
DIET: Swamp vegetation; will occasionally eat fallen fruit and chew the bark of trees and shrubs; also browse on shrubs and trees, and graze on fresh grasses
GESTATION: About 7.5-8 months
SEXUAL MATURITY:
MALE 1.5-2 years
FEMALE 1-1.5 years
LIFE SPAN: Up to 19 years observed in zoos; unknown in natural environment
RANGE: Western central Africa into parts of southern savanna
HABITAT: Most aquatic of all antelope species; thickly vegetated, deep swamps, wetlands, and forest areas near lake and river systems
POPULATION: GLOBAL No data
STATUS: IUCN Low Risk
CITES Appendix III
USFWS Not listed

FUN FACTS

1. Sitatungas are one of the most aquatic antelope species and have many adaptations that allow them to spend time in water.
2. Sitatunga coats are shaggy and several inches long. Their thin hair is also coated with an oily, water-repellent secretion.
3. Their hooves are often referred to as being banana-like because they are elongated and will splay widely apart to keep them from sinking into soft soil. These hooves make them awkward and clumsy on dry ground but allow them to stand and walk on floating islands of vegetation in the swamp.
4. These antelope use regular, tunneled pathways through tall reeds and papyrus to navigate through the swamps.
5. Sitatungas are excellent swimmers, able to paddle slowly for several miles, often coming to rest on dry mounds or floating vegetation.
6. Normally standing only half-submerged in the water, sitatungas will dive deep enough to submerge their entire body when escaping and hiding from predators, leaving only their nose exposed at the surface.
7. Sitatunga males are much larger than females, and only the males possess horns, which are twisted and may grow up to 25 inches long.
8. Sitatungas will wait until dark to leave the swamp and graze at the edge of nearby forests.
9. They are known to rear up in order to reach the flowers of tall reeds and foliage; males will break branches with their horns.
10. Sitatungas will form their own platforms of vegetation in the water by repeatedly circling and trampling on swamp reeds and grass.
11. Since the swamp provides an adequate supply of food year-round, sitatungas have very small home ranges. Although considered generally solitary, their small home ranges incur frequent social interactions along the edge of their territory, during which sitatunga will call to one another with a variety of vocalizations, including short barks, loud sneezes, and squeaks.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

As grazers they are important to the habitats they live in by keeping vegetation from becoming overgrown. Lions, leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs all prey upon sitatungas, but like most animals the biggest threat to their populations are the actions of man. Sought after for both their meat and skin, hunters capture these semi-aquatic antelope by setting snares along their well-traveled paths, or driving them into open water where they are easily overtaken. Since these animals are so dependent on dense vegetation, habitat destruction due to swamp drainage is their greatest threat.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Estes, Richard D. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals: Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1991.

Estes, Richard D. The Safari Companion. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Company. 1993.

Kingdom, Jonathan. East African Mammals. Vol. IIIC. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1982.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World Fifth Ed. Vol. II. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1991.

Spinage, C.A. The Natural History of Antelopes. New York: Facts on File Publications. 1986.

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu