It’s Baby Waterbuck Time
Summer time is the best for spotting waterbuck calves, which are normally born after the summer rains. Although they are concealed in dense bush by their mothers for the first few weeks of their lives, before long the youngsters can be seen playfully skipping alongside their dam as part of the herd.
Waterbuck usually give birth to one offspring after a gestation of nine months, with the mating season during winter. The mother goes to great lengths to keep her young concealed in the cover of dense bush, returning only to nurse it and give it a thorough cleaning to reduce the chance of a predator tracking the calf down by smell.
The name waterbuck is slightly misleading as these antelope are not particularly at home in water, like the sitatunga or lechwe found higher up in Africa. However, they do take to the depths to escape predators, and like most antelope are usually found close to sources of water.
We are of course familiar with our common waterbuck with its trademark white-ringed rump, but there is a second species found in Africa called the Defassa waterbuck. This variety has wide white smudges on the sides of its rump instead. With only these rear markings to distinguish them, the two species are identical and will even interbreed.
Apart from the white on its posterior, the waterbuck has attractive white markings on the muzzle, throat and around the eyes. The rest of the body is covered in thick brownish-grey hair. Large round ears are further distinguishing features of this animal which otherwise looks a little like a short-haired alpaca. They are solid looking creatures, standing about 1.4 m at the shoulder, and weighing up to 260 Kg.
Males are substantially larger than females with a pair of magnificent ringed horns. Widely spaced, the horns curve gracefully back and up, and can be used with great effectiveness in territorial combat with other males, often producing a lethal outcome. Although the male does not mark his range with dung or urine like other antelope, the smell of another male waterbuck is enough to send intruders packing – unless they are there to pick a fight.
Female waterbuck have large ranges of their own. While the male might try to retain a female herd within his range, the waterbuck bull is seldom successful in getting a commitment out of his harem, and the presence of a male among a group of females is usually a temporary arrangement.
One of our lodges is named after this antelope, have you spent any time there?