MAGNIFICENT KUDU

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.

 

FOCUS ON KUDU

One of the most majestic animals we see is the Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros). They carry themselves so elegantly and look at one seemingly with the confidence born of knowing they are a cut above the rest. Look at the colouring of this beautiful female kudu with its tawny brown body, greyish neck and the stripes on its back. Both males and females have a conspicuous hump on the shoulder.

Note the fluffier fur of this immature kudu.

Only the male kudu has horns. You can tell this is a young kudu bull for its horns have not yet started to twist into the familiar spiral pattern. The spectacular horns of the kudu are used to fight each other for the right to mate with females.

You can see this pattern in the image below. Note the chevron-shaped white band across the face too.

Kudu are large antelope and rely on their disruptive colouration for camouflage as the stripes help their bodies to blend into the background – from the perspective of possible predators. They sport a mane of long hair from the back of the head to their tail that helps to disrupt their outline. An interesting characteristic of kudu is their large ears.

NOTE: Click on a photograph to see a larger image.

ANTELOPE IN THE MOUNTAIN ZEBRA NATIONAL PARK

Naturally enough, we expect to see Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra zebra) in the Mountain Zebra National Park situated on the northern slopes of the Bankberg near Cradock.

While we saw a lot of them, a variety of antelope populate the area too. Among these are Red Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus caama):

This is a predominantly grazing species that prefers medium-height grass and so are plentiful in the plateau area of Rooiplaat and Juriesdam.

It is wonderful to see large herds of South Africa’s national animal, the Springbuck (Antidorcas marsupialis), grazing in the veld all over the Park.

We did not see as many Gemsbok (Oryx gazelle) as we have on previous visits. This one was bounding across the grassland with considerable haste.

It was very interesting to happen upon a small herd of Mountain Reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula) and to watch how quickly and nimbly they could run up the steep, rocky, mountain slope!

The Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) were scattered here and there. They are mainly browsers rather than grazers.

Sizeable herds of Black Wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou) as well as individuals abound in the Park.

EAT AND BE EATEN

The urban lifestyle is so far removed from the natural order of things: eat and be eaten. While some may have fruit and vegetables growing in their gardens or on their balconies, the majority of urbanites rely on supermarkets, butchers, bakeries and the like for their daily food. Meat comes wrapped in styrofoam and plastic, bread is pre-sliced in plastic bags, vegetables are ready picked and washed on the shelves – perhaps even pre-chopped / sliced / mixed all ready for roasting or stir-frying …

That is not the case in nature, where the eat and be eaten order applies.

This is what remains of a Mountain Tortoise:

A Zebra munches the dry winter grass:

What is left of a Kudu:

The grisly end of a Cape Buffalo that had been a meal for many:

This is a Warthog grazing – note the way it rests on its front knees:

They also rest on their knees when drinking:

An elephant tucks into a nutritious meal: