Grey rhebuck, Vaal rhebok, Vaalribbok
The grey rhebok or grey rhebuck (Pelea capreolus ), locally known as the reebok in Afrikaans, is a species of antelope native to South Africa, Lesotho, and Eswatini (Swaziland). The specific name capreolus is Latin for 'little goat', it is the only known member of the subfamily Peleinae or tribe Peleini.
The Grey rhebok is a species of antelope native to Southern Africa. These are medium-sized animals with a long neck and narrow ears. Their coat is colored in various shades of grey; it is short and dense and protects rheboks from the cold in the mountains. Only the males carry horns, which are straight, sharp and ringed at the base.
Grey rheboks live in South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. They inhabit grassy, montane habitats such as mountain slopes, rocky hills and plateau grasslands. They can also be found at the Cape’s coast.
Grey rheboks are social and territorial animals. They usually aggregate in herds of 1 to 15 females with their young and one mature male. Grey rheboks maintain their territory by urinating and defecating, standing or walking in an upright posture, and patrolling. Females and their young usually stay within one male’s territory. These animals are active during the day and usually, rest at midday when it gets hot. They have a very acute sense of smell and sight. They are also good jumpers and run with an interesting horse-like gait when their fore and hind legs are kicked out stiffly with each leap. Grey rheboks communicate with the help of hisses and groans. When threatened they snort, stamp and run if needed. During an attack, males sometimes start the fight in order to protect their herd.
Grey rheboks are polygynous. Males become very aggressive during the breeding season and defend their groups of females from other intruding males. These animals breed between January and April. Females are pregnant for about seven months and give birth to a single calf in late spring and summer. A few days before to give birth females leave the herds. After the birth, the calf stays hidden for about six weeks and mother frequently comes back to feed her young. Males attain maturity when they are 18-21 months old; they leave their group and try to establish their own territory.
The main threats to Grey rheboks include increased levels of bushmeat and illegal sport hunting with dogs. Natural predators such as Black-backed jackal, caracals, and leopards pose another big threat to these animals. Climate change and human encroachment into the natural habitat may also be a reason for the decline in the Grey rhebok population.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Grey rheboks is 18,000 individuals. Around 2,000 individuals occur in protected areas. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.