Bontebok are one of the rarest antelopes found in South Africa. These elegant antelopes are chocolate brown in color, with a white underside. They have a white stripe running from their forehead to the tip of their nose and a distinctive white or light brown/tan patch around their tail. The horns of bontebok are lyre-shaped and clearly ringed. They are found in both sexes and can reach a length of half a meter.
Bontebok are found in South Africa. Today they are protected in Bontebok National Park and in a few reserves and private farms in the region. These antelopes live in open grasslands of southern Africa. Bontebok have two known subspecies: the bontebok that occurs naturally in the Fynbos and Renosterveld areas of the Western Cape, and the blesbok that lives in the highveld.
Bontebok are diurnal creatures. They graze in the morning and afternoon and prefer to rest during the heat of the midday. These antelopes live in herds that contain only males, only females, or are mixed, and do not exceed 40 animals for bonteboks or 70 for blesboks. In the past, these antelopes migrated seasonally between pastures and formed large herds in fall and winter. Now as they live in large enough areas they continue to travel throughout the available range in small groups. Bontebok are not good jumpers, but they are very good at crawling under things. Mature males form territories and face down other males in displays and occasionally combat. When threatened these antelopes can defend themselves by using their horns when necessary, however, they prefer to just run away and avoid confrontation. In order to communicate with each other, these antelopes use grunting and snorting. They also scent mark their territory with the help of glands on their hind feet and secretions from pre-orbital scent glands just below their eyes.
Bontebok are herbivores and feed on short grasses and plants. They can stay without water for several days; however, if water is available, they will drink at least once a day.
Little is known about the mating system in Bontebok. They breed between January and March. During this time males attract females performing a courtship ritual in which the male lowers his head and lifts his tail over his head. Females give birth to a single calf after the gestation period that lasts from 7 to 8 months. Calves are born fully developed and are able to run right after birth. They are weaned at 4 months of age and become reproductively mature at around 2-2.5 years old.
Bontebok were once extensively killed for their meat, skin and as pests, and were reduced to a wild population of just 17 animals. They have recovered since then but still suffer from hunting, and depend on their protected lands for continued survival.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of bontebok is around 3,500 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.