The Steenbok

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Those who keep their eyes on the undergrowth during a game drive often reap the rewards of their vigilance. It's here where you are likely to spot the less conspicuous creatures such as reptiles, game birds and the delightful little antelope called the steenbok.

This diminutive ungulate bears a strong resemblance to the much larger oribi, although it only reaches a maximum height of 60cm at the shoulder. The bright fawn to orange coat bears white markings under the chin and throat as well as around the eyes, but you are most likely to notice the large broad ears lined with fine white hairs, first.

The steenbok chooses freezing into immobility as its first line of defence, so it is often possible to get a good view of its beautiful black facial markings and dark brown eyes before it darts off, flipping its tiny tail behind it, before turning to have another look.

This method of freezing, running and then turning back and even prostrating themselves on the ground while being hotly pursued, or diving for cover into a handy aardvark burrow, makes up the steenbok's complicated flight repertoire. They are most often preyed upon by African wildcat, caracal, jackals, leopard, pythons and martial eagles.

Despite its delicate appearance, the steenbok is a hardy antelope and widespread throughout Southern Africa. It is almost entirely independent of water, as it extracts enough moisture from the forbs and woody plants which make up its diet. In desperate times, the steenbok may lower itself to nibble on some grass or fruit, but rarely leaves its territory for greener pastures during lean periods.

They generally keep to themselves, teaming up with a member of the opposite sex only during the breeding season. While they often occupy the same territory as their mate, and keep in 'touch' via scent markings, they do not usually spend time together.

After successful mating and about 6 months gestation, a single fawn is born in the late spring and is concealed for the first three months of its life, in long grass or an abandoned burrow. The mother may even eat or bury (as it does its own) the youngsters' excrement in order to avoid detection.

Visiting her offspring only in the morning and evening, for feeding and grooming, the doe often remains concealed nearby in order to lure predators away if needed. 

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017