Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) are such common antelope where I grew up, as well as in the Eastern Cape where I now live, that I am taken aback at how relatively few photographs I have of these majestic, regal-looking animals. They are awesome to watch as they move elegantly through the veld or stand stock-still and look at one, totally unaware of their fine features, silently waiting for you to leave so that they can continue with their meal in peace.
They are mainly browsers.
Although they graze too.
I had a particularly close encounter with a kudu bull whilst walking through the Namib Naukluft National Park in Namibia over forty years ago: I had separated from the group and taken a narrow path through some thick bush that would lead to a dry riverbed lower down. I turned a sharp corner and came face-to-face with the unsuspecting Kudu bull, not more than a meter away. We eyed each other briefly. Then he turned away quietly to go down the path. I watched him but did not follow and allowed the unique experience to wash over me again and again before I joined the rest of the party.
While they are protected in our national parks and game reserves, during the hunting season kudu on private farms and in hunting areas are shot mainly for their meat, although some bulls are earmarked for their magnificent horns.
These horns were presented to the First City Regiment in Grahamstown by the then Duke of Montrose – then Colonel-in-Chief of First City – on the occasion of his departure for Scotland in July 1989. They originated from his ranch in the then Rhodesia.
The females do not have horns.
As one drives along the network of South African roads one encounters numerous road signs warning motorists to watch out for kudu – especially at night.
Kudu are the main culprits, although one needs to be on the lookout for other forms of wildlife too. Kudu are large animals, weighing up to 270 Kg and have a tendency to jump into the road at night after being dazzled by the headlights of the vehicle – crashing into the vehicle, causing extensive damage and even death. We once had a young kudu bump into the side of our vehicle early one misty morning. Fortunately, we were travelling slowly and it proved to be a sidelong encounter from which both parties emerged unscathed. The presence of an abundance of kudu creates hazardous driving conditions for motorists in the Eastern Cape and so this encounter served as a sober reminder of the dangers of driving in the country around here between dusk and dawn.
Apart from the various Urban Herds that invade our town, there are a number of donkeys that are let loose to find their own food along the grass verges – sadly many of them also break open the plastic bags of garbage if they are not collected in time. Some residents have started to place large containers of water outside their gates for the donkeys to drink – where else are they to find water in a drought-stricken town? Sometimes there might be a single donkey such as this one:
We came across these frisky donkeys in a side street – it is spring after all:
Three is a crowd
These were the first two animals of one of the Urban Herds to walk past my front gate on Sunday.
Another Urban Herd temporarily blocked our way along Somerset Street later in the morning.
They ambled down African Street quite oblivious to the vehicles travelling in both directions.
Part of yet another Urban Herd had made itself at home in someone’s garden. I couldn’t help wondering if they have become adept at opening gates.
We saw these two looking bewildered at the side of the road on our way home. They both sniffed at the air and turned their heads in different directions. One mooed loudly and they seemed to be listening carefully for a response. After a few minutes they set off at a steady pace in the direction of the bridge on the main road – doubtless to join the rest of their herd which had gathered on the outskirts of the suburbs.
Having seen enough of them for one morning, we didn’t follow them.
The days have warmed up quickly and nature is making the most of the seasonal change. The veld in parts of the North West Province is filled with Vachellia (Acacia) trees covered with creamy blossoms.
New leaves are sprouting on thorny branches.
Young Nyala still sport crinkly, fluffy hair.
Impala are feeling frisky.
Grey Rhebuck (Pelea capreolus), endemic to South Africa, are well-camouflaged antelope unless one sees them right out in the open. They are covered with thick, woolly hair that is grey-brown in colour; their bellies are white, as is the underneath of their tails. Although they are predominantly browsers they also eat shrubs, roots and seeds.
The photograph below that was taken from a distance and in poor light shows a pure white Grey Rhebuck next to a normal one. Despite the poor quality, see how it stands out like a sore thumb – there is absolutely no advantage for the white one, other than to be a target for a meal.
Why interfere with nature to breed creatures such as this?
Impala (Aepyceros melampus) are common Bushveld antelope, although they have been introduced to game farms elsewhere in the country. They are brownish with lighter coloured hair on their flanks. Impala are mixed feeders, both browsing and grazing.
The market for hunting exotic coloured animals is the drive behind breeding dark ones such as this.
I was interested to read in the article linked below that at one time specially bred colour variants of animals such as impala and wildebeest were big money-spinners: “In 2014, breeders advertised golden wildebeest for between R500 000 and R1.4-million and black impala from R190 000 to R500 000.” This is no longer the case: it seems too many breeders jumped onto that bandwagon and so such animals are no longer considered ‘rare’ and the demand for them has dropped.
So much for interfering with nature to gain a ‘buck’ or two!
Symbiosis is an interesting word meaning ‘living together’ which derives from the Greek syn = together and biono = living. It is frequently used in the form of symbiotic relationships between plants / animals / birds. A very common example of a symbiotic relationship between birds and animals is the presence of Cattle Egrets that follow close in the wake of grazing cattle.
They are also often seen in the company of buffalo or zebra.
What these birds are doing is catching insects that are disturbed by the movements of the grazing animals. This is a type of commensalism whereby the birds benefit enormously from the animals, although what the latter get out of the relationship is uncertain – unless the birds act as a warning system perhaps.
I suspect this Red-winged Starling was using the bull as a convenient perch for the same reason – there were several other cattle grazing nearby.
A symbiotic relationship with more mutual benefit would be this one between the Red-billed Oxpeckers and the Nyala bull: the oxpeckers probe the skin and ears of animals in order to feed on the parasites harboured there. This benefits both them and the animal concerned.
In the case of these oxpeckers on a Cape buffalo, only one appears to be ‘working’, while the others are enjoying a free ride!
No wardrobe planner could do better than this: see how the colours of the Red-winged Starling match that of the bull it is perched on: