Scientifically known as “Tragelaphus spekii”, sitatungas (also known as marshbucks) are swamp/marshland-dwelling antelopes that inhabit many areas of Central Africa including Cameroon, areas of South Sudan, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, Botswana, Uganda and Gabon.
Sitatungas were first described by John Hannington Speke-an English Explorer in 1863 and are known to be medium-sized antelopes. They were classified as least concern species in International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List
Just like most antelopes, sitatunga exhibit sexual dimorphism. A mature male sitatunga measures from 81 to 116 centimeters (32 to 46 inches) at their shoulders whereas their female counterparts reach 72 to 90 centimeters (28 to 35 inches). When it comes to weight, the males weigh from 76 to 119 kilograms (168 to 262 pounds and the females weigh half of that-from 24 to 57 kilograms (53 to 126 pounds). Surprisingly, only the males possess horns that are spiral in shape and have one or two twists, measuring 45 to 92 centimeters (18 to 36 inches) in length.
These antelopes have shaggy and water-resistant coats that usually vary in color. Their coats are roughly-haired and males usually possess a dark color with no body stripes. Their bodies and feet are exceptionally adapted to live within the swampy areas. They are normally active during the early hours after dawn and the last one and two hours before dusk as well as at night.
Sitatunga mainly inhabit marshy and swampy areas, in mainly tall and thick vegetation in addition to the seasonal swamps and swampy clearings within forests, mangrove and riparian thickets.
Unlike most antelope species, the sitatungas are exceptionally non-territorial and in most times live solitary lives. They are also selective grazers that mainly feed on new foliage, fresh grasses, sedges as well as aquatic plants.
Gestational period of the sitatunga is almost 8 months, after which a single calf is born. Females reach sexual maturity at one year of age whereas the males at one and a half years. Interestingly, they breed all year round but their peak is in the dry season. Their life span is around 20 years in the wild and from 22 to 23 years in captivity.
These antelopes are threatened by habitat loss resulting from loss of wetlands and long term reduction of water levels that affect the vegetation hence also bearing upon their diet. Much as the population of sitatungas is sporadic in some African countries, they are commonly spotted within numerous areas that include Bangweulu swamp as well as Okavango Delta. In Uganda, you can find them within Murchison Falls National Park, Bigodi wetland Sanctuary near Kibale Forest National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
In conclusion, the Sitatunga are very interesting antelope species that occupy the marshlands. They can be easily seen in
- Queen Elizabeth National Park
- Murchison Falls National Park
- Bigodi wetland Sanctuary near Kibale Forest National Park