Gemsbok

Gemsbok

South African oryx

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Subfamily
Genus
SPECIES
Oryx gazella
Population size
373,000
Life Span
18-22 yrs
TOP SPEED
60 km/h
WEIGHT
100-240 kg
HEIGHT
1.2 m
LENGTH
190-240 cm

The gemsbok is a large antelope native to Southern Africa. It is light brownish-grey to tan in color, with lighter patches toward the bottom rear of the rump. Its tail is long and black in color. A blackish stripe extends from the chin down the lower edge of the neck, through the juncture of the shoulder and leg along the lower flank of each side to the blackish section of the rear leg. The gemsbok has a muscular neck and shoulders, and its legs have white 'socks' with a black patch on the front of both the front legs and both genders have long, straight horns.

Distribution

Gemsbok occur in the arid regions of Southern Africa, such as the Kalahari Desert. They inhabit stony plains, sandy dunes, brushland, savanna and can often be found in mountains where they visit springs and salt licks.

Gemsbok habitat map

Geography

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Gemsbok are gregarious and live in herds of about 10-40 animals. These herds consist of a dominant male, a few non-dominant males, and females. Gemsbok are generally grazers but change to browsing during the dry season or when the grass is sparse and may dig up to a meter deep to find roots and tubers. They usually feed early in the morning and late afternoon to avoid midday heat and may sometimes be active on moonlit nights. These are mainly desert-dwelling antelopes and they do not depend on drinking water to supply their physiological needs. Gemsbok are excellent runners and when threatened they can reach speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph).

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Gemsbok are herbivores (graminivores, folivores). They consume grasses, thorny shrubs, roots, tubers, and supplement their water intake by eating wild tsama melons and cucumbers.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
year-round
PREGNANCY DURATION
270 days
BABY CARRYING
1-2 calves
INDEPENDENT AGE
4.5 months
FEMALE NAME
doe
MALE NAME
buck
BABY NAME
calf

Gemsbok are polygynous, with one resident male mating with the receptive females in the herd. The male is known to secure exclusive mating access to the females by attempting to herd mixed or nursery herds onto his territory. Gemsbok do not have a specified breeding season and may breed year-round. Before giving birth pregnant females leave the herd. The gestation period lasts 270 days and mothers give birth to 1-2 offspring. The calf remains hidden 6 weeks after birth, after which the mother and calf rejoin the herd. The calf is weaned at 3.5 months and becomes independent at 4.5 months of age. Young gemsbok reach reproductive maturity when they are 1.5-2 years old.

Population

Population threats

There are no major threats facing gemsbok at present. However, these antelopes are widely hunted for their spectacular horns and meat.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total gemsbok population size is around 373,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The gemsbok is depicted on the coat of arms of Namibia.
  • The name "gemsbok" in English is derived from Afrikaans gemsbok, which itself is derived from the Dutch name of the male chamois, gemsbok, and further from German Gämse ("chamois"). Although the chamois and the oryx are similar in appearance (especially in the facial pattern) they are not closely related.
  • Gemsbok are praised for their spectacular horns that average 85 cm (33 in) in length. From a distance, the only outward difference between males and females is their horns, and many hunters mistake females for males each year. In males, horns tend to be thicker with larger bases. Females have slightly longer and thinner horns.
  • Female gemsbok use their horns to defend themselves and their calves from predators, while males primarily use their horns to defend their territories from other males.
  • Gemsbok are one of the few antelope species where female trophies are sometimes more desirable than male ones. A gemsbok horn can be fashioned into a natural trumpet and, according to some authorities, can be used as a shofar (ancient musical horn).
  • Gemsbok require 3 liters of water per 100 kg body weight and day, however, they can survive without water for long periods getting all needed moisture from various grasses and plants.

References

1. Gemsbok on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemsbok
2. Gemsbok on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/15573/166485425

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