Greater Kudu

Greater Kudu

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Subfamily
Genus
SPECIES
Tragelaphus strepsiceros
Population size
482,000
Life Span
7-23 yrs
TOP SPEED
96 km/h
WEIGHT
120-270 kg
HEIGHT
100-160 cm
LENGTH
185-245 cm

Greater kudus are large woodland antelopes found throughout eastern and southern Africa. They have a narrow body with long legs, and their coats can range from brown/bluish-grey to reddish-brown. They possess between 4 and 12 vertical white stripes along their torso. The head tends to be darker in color than the rest of the body and exhibits a small white v-shaped mark that runs between the eyes. Bulls tend to be much larger than the cows, and vocalize much more; they also have beards running along their throats, and large horns with two and a half twists.

Distribution

The range of Greater kudu extends from the east in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Eritrea, and Kenya into the south where they are found in Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Other regions where they occur are the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Swaziland, and Uganda. These antelopes live in mixed scrub woodlands and bush on abandoned fields and degraded pastures, mopane bush and acacia in lowlands, hills, and mountains. They will occasionally venture onto plains only if there is a large abundance of bushes, but normally avoid such open areas to avoid becoming an easy target for their predators.

Greater Kudu habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Greater kudus are social animals that live in groups within their home areas. Females usually form small groups of 6-10 with their offspring, but sometimes they can form a herd of up to 20 individuals. Male kudus may form small bachelor groups, but they are more commonly found as solitary and widely dispersed individuals. Solitary males will join the group of females and calves only during the mating season. Home ranges of maternal herds can overlap with other maternal herds while home ranges of adult males generally encompass the ranges of two or three female groups. Greater kudus may be active throughout the 24-hour day. During the day, they normally cease to be active and instead seek cover under woodland, especially during hot days. They feed and drink in the early morning and late afternoon, acquiring water from waterholes or roots and bulbs that have high water content. When a herd is threatened by predators, an adult (usually female) will issue a bark to alert the rest of the herd. Greater kudus communicate using many other vocalizations, including low grunts, clucks, humming, and gasping.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Greater kudus are herbivores (graminivores, folivores, frugivores). Their diet consists of leaves, grass, shoots, and occasionally tubers, roots, and fruit; they are especially fond of oranges and tangerines.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
end of the rainy season
PREGNANCY DURATION
240 days
BABY CARRYING
1-2 calves
INDEPENDENT AGE
6 months
FEMALE NAME
cow
MALE NAME
bull
BABY NAME
calf

Greater kudus are polygynous meaning that one male mates with more than one female. They breed at the end of the rainy season, which can fluctuate slightly according to the region and climate. Before mating, there is a courtship ritual that consists of the male standing in front of the female and often engaging in a neck wrestle. The male then trails the female while issuing a low pitched call. Gestation takes around 240 days and calving generally starts between February and March, when the grass tends to be at its highest. Females usually bear one calf, although occasionally there maybe two. The pregnant female will leave her group to give birth; once she gives birth, the newborn is hidden in vegetation for about 4 to 5 weeks (to avoid predation). After 4 or 5 weeks, the calf will accompany its mother for short periods of time; then by 3 to 4 months of age, it will accompany her at all times. By the time it is 6 months old, the calf is quite independent of its mother. Female Greater kudus reach reproductive maturity at 15-21 months of age while males reach maturity when they are 21-24 months old.

Population

Population threats

The main threats to Greater kudus include habitat loss, deforestation, and excessive hunting. These beautiful antelopes have suffered greatly from interaction with humans. Humans are turning much of their natural habitat into farmland, restricting their home ranges. Humans have also destroyed woodland cover, which kudus use for their habitat. These antelopes are also a target for poachers for meat and horns. The horns of Greater kudus are commonly used to make Shofars, a Jewish ritual horn blown at Rosh Hashanah.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total Greater kudu population size is around 482,000 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 Greater kudu is the second largest antelope species in the world. The largest one is only Eland.
  • Greater kudus have the most spectacular horns in the animal kingdom. You can even tell the age of kudu by the number of the twists on its horns. The horns begin to grow when the male kudu is between the ages of 6-12 months; they form the first spiral rotation at around 2 years of age and reach the full two and a half rotations when the animal is 6 years old.
  • Despite being very nimble over rocky hillsides and mountains, Greater kudus are not fast enough to escape their main predators (lions, Spotted hyenas, and African hunting dogs) over open terrain, so they usually rely on leaping over shrubs and small trees to shake off pursuers.
  • Greater kudus have excellent hearing and acute eyesight which helps to alert them to approaching predators.
  • The hidden coloring and markings protect kudus by camouflaging them. If alarmed they usually stand still and are very difficult to spot.
  • When sensing danger kudus freeze and stand still which makes it extremely difficult to spot them.
  • Although they tend to stay in one area, in times of drought Greater kudus may leave their home ranges and search over a large distance for water. In southern Namibia where water is relatively scarce, they may cover extensive distances in very short periods of time.

References

1. Greater Kudu on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_kudu
2. Greater Kudu on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22054/166487759

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