The Bushbuck is a widespread species of antelope in the Sub-Saharan and Eastern parts of Africa. These animals have a light brown coat, with up to seven white stripes and white splotches on the sides. The white patches are usually geometrically shaped and are found on the most mobile parts of their body such as the ears, chin, tail, legs, and neck.
The Bushbuck has been known to look a lot like the lowland Nyalas. The males are known as bucks, the females are known as does. The buck and doe have different physical characteristics. The buck has a fur color that is a dark grayish color. It is further decorated by white spots on the flanks and the white socks.
The bucks weigh between 40kg and 80kg, while the standing height is usually between 70cm and 100cm. The horns are almost straight with one twist close to the bottom. Horns are distinct male features and are around 26cm and 57cm long. At 10 months, young males grow strongly twisted horns that form the beginning loop of a spiral at maturity; it is however possible (in very rare cases) for females to have horns as well.
The doe is much smaller than the buck, weighing anything between 25kg and 60kg and standing height of 65cm and 85cm. The doe is lighter in color, with a reddish-brown color that is beautified with more visible white spots on the ears, neck, tail, legs, and chin. Both sexes are known to darken as they advance in age.
It has been found that the color of the Bushbuck can differ according to geographical location. The Eastern and Southern Bushbucks have been seen to be yellow with relatively few white markings on their body. The Northern and Western Bushbuck is reddish with stripes and spots. Collectively, these animals are called Herd, Cluster, or Tribe.
Distribution and Habitat
Bushbuck occur from the Cape in South Africa to Angola and Zambia and up the Eastern part of Africa to Ethiopia and Somalia. It is found in many more African countries like;
Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, DR Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
These antelopes are very adaptable mammals that live in rain forests, montane forests, forest-savanna mosaics, and bush savanna forests, woodland, and sub-desert. They are found in tropical and arid climate zones. The thicker the vegetation, the better it is for the Bushbuck. They can be seen in the close vicinity of permanent water, but are also able to survive in water-less areas.
Habits and Lifestyle
Bushbucks are the only unterritorial and solitary animals. They are generally shy, secretive, and are the least social of the African antelopes. The mature males usually go out of their way to stay away from each other. Mature females prefer to keep social interactions with their young to not more than a few hours a day. The Bushbuck live in a 'home' area, which is usually around 50,000 square meters on the savanna and much larger in the forest, which they do not normally leave.
These areas usually overlap other Bushbuck home areas, even so, there still isn't much contact, as adult individuals prefer to stay by themselves in their separate areas. They are usually most active during the early morning and a fraction of the night but tend to be almost entirely nocturnal near human habitations.
They spend their day feeding, standing, and moving about. They are not confrontational, the individual Bushbuck may react in different ways when threatened; they may sink into the ground and lie flat or may run away producing series of hoarse barks.
When they feel they are in danger, they may freeze in one position and remain very still, allowing their coloring to camouflage them. When surprised in the open, they may stand still or slowly walk to the nearest cover. Bushbucks do not commit to relationships.
Most group associations, except for a female and her latest young, are very temporary and only last a few hours or days.
Even though they aren't territorial, they will defend an area inhabited by a female in heat.
Female Bushbucks go to great lengths to hide their young. After giving birth, the mother cleans and hides the newly born calf, after which she eats the placenta. When she visits and suckles it, she eats its dung, so no scent remains to attract predators, she does this to protect her young.
The young calf, usually 4kg, does not accompany its mother for long periods during the day until it is about four months old. A female and her calf often play together, running in circles chasing each other.
A pre-reproduction ritual forms part of the breeding process. The male and female Bushbucks touch each other and spread their scent by resting their heads on each other, urinating, rubbing against each other making mating calls.
This process occurs during the April and May mating season, this could also happen at any other time of the year.
The doe is sexually mature at 14 months, while the buck reaches sexual maturity at 11 months, although bucks are not known to mate until 3 years of age. The doe has a gestation period of 6 to 7 months, which invariably means that they are able to reproduce twice a year.
Birth peak season is generally during the rainy season in dry regions. On the other hand, it has been found that there are not necessarily 'birth peaks' in high-rainfall areas.
#Diet and Nutrition
The diet of Bushbucks is one of the simplest out there. They are herbivorous (folivorous) animals. The main food sources include leaves, herbs, twigs, and flowers of different plant species. The herbivorous creature is a predominant food browser and an occasional grazer; which means that they mostly eat from trees and plants, but on rare occasions, they also eat fresh grass.
If water is scarce, Bushbucks can survive on dew. They need some water but can subsist on dew, if necessary. This indicates that they are not necessarily reliant on water sources.
Their population is considered to be in a good state with over one million Bushbucks inhabiting most of the African continent. This is mainly due to their ability to forage, live and survive within the rain forests. According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Bushbuck is around 1,340,000 individuals. Currently, these species are classified as Least Concern (LC) and their numbers today are stable.
The main threat to Bushbuck is habitat loss due to the unsustainable growth of agriculture, settlement, and roads. Their living space is decreasing as human populations grow and expand, leading to the loss of their habitat.
Heavy hunting pressures pose another threat to the animals in parts of their home range as some local tribes continue to hunt Bushbuck for their hides.
While Bushbucks are able to coexist with human habitation to a greater extent than many other species, humans hunt them for their skin, which makes leather that is supple, thin, and the hair sheds easily. In some areas, Bushbuck meat is significantly lower in price, resulting in it being the most commonly purchased bushmeat.
They are also viewed as a pest species in some areas because of their tendency to destroy people's gardens, hence they are also killed for this reason.
To protect the Bushbuck, conservation tourism should be developed. The conservancy is a safe home to a variety of wildlife, including the Bushbuck. There should be the creation of more protected spaces. Wildlife corridors should be designated - large swaths of land that Bushbucks use to roam freely from one park or country to another. Wildlife corridors link protected areas and allow wildlife to follow rains or travel to their calving grounds.
Other Bushbuck facts
The Bushbuck is a close relative of the Kudu and Nyala animals. It is the smallest of the spiral-horned antelope and it is native to 40 African countries. The Tragelaphus scriptus, as it's been scientifically named, has a short life expectancy of around 12 years in the wild and about 15 years in captivity.
Did you know, Bushbucks are not very fast runners but are extremely good swimmers, easily crossing rivers as wide as 3km.
During daylight hours, the Bushbuck rests, mostly eating in the early morning and late afternoon. During a full moon, they may feed through the night.
Main predators of Bushbucks are leopards, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, hunting dogs, and crocodiles.
Unlike other antelopes, Bushbucks do not tolerate birds that remove insects from their fur. As a consequence, Bushbucks are filled with ticks. Besides diseases transmitted by insects, Bushbuck is prone to a viral disease called rinderpest.