ENCOUNTER THE KLIPSPRINGER ANTELOPES OF UGANDA
Klipspringers are scientifically known as “Oreotragus oreotragus and are one of the smallest antelope species. These exceptional mammals mostly inhabit parts of East and Southern Africa thus are likely to be encountered during Uganda safaris to different savanna national parks.
Klipspringers derived their name from two Afrikaans Words-klip meaning rock and Springer that stands for leaper thus the “rock leapers”, and are also referred as the klipbok.
These Antelopes are the only members of the Genus Oreotragus, family Bovidae and Order Artiodactyla, and were first studied by a famous German Zoologist known as August Wilhelm in 1783.
The horns of these antelopes are considered spiky and short extending for 7.5 to 9 centimeters and are only found in the males, hence making it easier to tell their sexes based on the presence and absence of horns, and their tails extend for 7 to 13 centimeters long.
They are small but very strong antelopes with shoulder Height of between 40 and 60 centimeters and weigh from eight to eighteen kilograms.
Their coat colors include yellowish grey to reddish brown which offer perfect camouflage in the rugged habitats where they live including the ancient Pre-Cambrian rocks found within Lake Mburo National Park and can be spotted during Uganda safaris. Generally, the Klipspringers inhabit the Mountainsides, river gorges and Kopjes among others.
There are several adaptations such as their hooves that allow them to live within the Mountains. These antelopes also have rubbery center to offer grip and tough outer edges that maintain them firmly planted. In addition to that, they migrate to lowland areas when food is difficult to find.
They are largely Monogamous compared to most antelope species and maintain long-term pair bonding. Mating pairs stay up to 5 meters close to one another with the males creating territories of 19 to 121 acres where it lives with the off springs.
They are mainly nocturnal thus are always more active at night and usually rest during day and the late night time.
The gestation period of the Klipspringers is 7 months after which only one calf is born. The Calf eventually separates from the mother after 12 months of age.
Klipspringers are herbivores and selective browsers that feed on mainly flowers, barks, leaves, grasses, shrubs, twigs, lichens and fruits of herbs as well as soft green shoots. Surprisingly, they rarely feed on grass and just like other antelopes, they don’t depend on water. As water becomes scarce, these antelopes draw most of their required water from eating succulent plants in addition to obtaining dew from plants.
Gestation period is 6 months, after which a single calf is born. The young ones are left hidden amongst the thick vegetation or rocky niche until 3 months but during this period, they are visited 3 to 4 times a day by their mother to breastfeed.
They averagely reach sexual maturity at 7 months; the males remain with parents for over 6 months after birth while the females stay with parents up to 11 months. Breeding period is from August to September hence making them seasonal breeders. Both females and males stay together for a year with their last offsprings and male dominance is shown by curving the neck a making a low murmur.
In the family, the males take the protective role of keeping Klipspringers from other groups and predators from their young ones.
Their habitats that mainly include the rugged terrains are characterized by sparse vegetation, thus offering a better advantage to their predators because they can easily escape.
As earlier mentioned, they are nocturnals, in that they rest during day or sun bake to warm up and become active at night although they complete most of their activities before midnight.
Their average lifespan is 15 years in the wild but can survive for up to 18 years in captivity. Besides Uganda, the Klipspringer are distributed across a number of African countries that include Zimbabwe, Kenya, Central African Republic, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, Somalia, Eritrea, Malawi, Ethiopia, Angola, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan.