Sitatunga

Sitatunga

Marshbuck

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Subfamily
Genus
SPECIES
Tragelaphus spekii
Population size
170,000
Life Span
20-23 yrs
WEIGHT
24-119 cm
HEIGHT
72-116 cm
LENGTH
104-177 cm

Sitatunga are swamp-dwelling antelopes native to Africa. They have a shaggy, water-resistant coat which varies in color but, in general, is a rufous red in juveniles and chestnut in females. There are white facial markings, as well as several stripes and spots all over. White patches can be seen on the throat, near the head and the chest. The coats of males darken with age, becoming gray to dark brown. Males develop a rough and scraggy mane, usually brown in color, and a white dorsal stripe. There is also a chevron between the eyes of the males. The body and feet of these antelopes are specially adapted to their swampy habitat. Only the males possess horns which are spiral in shape and have one or two twists.

Video

Distribution

Sitatunga are found throughout central Africa. They are native to Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Sitatunga live on both land and water and are confined to swampy and marshy habitats. They occur in tall and dense vegetation of perennial as well as seasonal swamps, marshy clearings in forests, riparian thickets and mangrove swamps. These antelopes move along clearly marked tracks in their swampy habitat, often leading to reed beds. In savannas, they are typically found in stands of papyrus and reeds.

Sitatunga habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Sitatunga are active mainly during the early hours after dawn, the last one or two hours before dusk, and at night. They spend most of this time feeding. Basically sedentary, they rest in flat areas and reed beds, especially during the hotter part of the day and seldom leave their swamp habitat during the daytime. Sitatunga usually stay solitary or in pairs, but may also form small groups. These antelopes are not territorial. Males may engage in locking horns with other males and attacking vegetation using their horns. Sitatunga communicate with each other by first touching their noses, which may be followed by licking each other and nibbling. Alarmed animals may stand motionless, with the head held high and one leg raised. Sitatunga may occasionally emit a series of coughs or barks, usually at night, and these sounds can be heard across the swamp. This barking may be used by females to warn off other females. Males often utter a low bellow on coming across a female or a herd of females in the mating season. A low-pitched squeak may be uttered while feeding. Mothers communicate with their calves by bleats.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Sitatunga are herbivorous animals. They feed mainly on new foliage, fresh and aquatic grasses, sedges, flowers, buds, and seeds.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
year-round
PREGNANCY DURATION
8 months
BABY CARRYING
1 calf
FEMALE NAME
doe
MALE NAME
buck
BABY NAME
calf

Sitatunga are polygynous and when females gather, males compete among each other for the right to mate. Breeding takes place throughout the year. Gestation lasts around 8 months, after which usually a single calf is born. Calves stay hidden on a vegetation platform secluded in dry reeds, and in deep water for protection. They are brought out of cover only in the presence of many other sitatunga. Calves stay with their mothers for 6 months and learn to move in the swamp safely. Little calves take time to master the specialized gait of the sitatunga, and thus often lose their balance and fall in the water. Females usually become reproductively mature by 1 year of age, while males take 1,5 year before they mature.

Population

Population threats

The major threat to sitatunga is the loss of their habitat. Other threats include the increasing loss of wetlands, that have isolated populations and long-term changes in the water level, that affects the nearby vegetation and thus bears upon the animals' diet. In Senegal, intensive hunting for meat and habitat degradation have made sitatunga very rare.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of sitatunga is around 170,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The pointed toes of sitatunga allow them to walk slowly and almost noiselessly through the water. Moreover, the color of their coat provides excellent camouflage.
  • Sitatunga have very sharp hearing and their ears are so structured that the animal can accurately determine the direction from where a sound has originated.
  • Sitatunga are good swimmers but try to avoid water with profuse vegetation in order to escape crocodiles. When troubled by flies or pursued by predators, these antelopes can fully submerge themselves in the water except for the nose and the eyes, which they keep slightly above the water surface.
  • Due to their close association with water, sitatunga are often described as "aquatic antelopes", like the waterbuck. They often dry themselves under the sun after feeding in water.
  • Sitatunga sleep on platforms of dried vegetation which are hidden in reeds. They build these platforms themselves by trampling down the vegetation.
  • When feeding, sitatunga may stand on their hind legs to reach higher branches of trees, or even use their horns to pull down the branches.

References

1. Sitatunga on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitatunga
2. Sitatunga on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22050/115164901

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