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Sitatunga

Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Genus and Species: Tragelaphus spekii

Physical Description

The sitatunga is an amphibious antelope, which means it is comfortable in the water as well as on land. It has a long, shaggy, oily coat. Males are grayish-brown, while females are reddish-chocolate brown. They have six to eight vertical white stripes each side of their body and splayed hooves. Their hooves make them clumsy and vulnerable on firm terrain, but allow them to walk more easily through muddy, vegetated swamplands.

Males have long, twisting horns and a larger, thicker body than females.

Geographic Distribution

The sitatunga is rare and localized in western Africa, but remains widespread in the central African forests and in some swamp systems within the savannas of central, eastern and southern Africa. Individuals have also been seen in Ghana.

Status

The IUCN lists the sitatunga as a species of least concern. Though it is rare and localized in western Africa, it is common throughout central, east and southern Africa. It is threatened by over-hunting and habitat degradation.

Diet

Sitatungas forage for swamp vegetation such as bulrushes and sedges. They occasionally eat fallen fruit and the bark off of trees.

Reproduction

Males and females come together only to mate. After a gestation period of 7.5-8 months, the doe gives birth to a single fawn. After six months, the fawn will be weaned and encouraged to forage on its own.

Life Span

Sitatungas can live a maximum of 20 to 22 years.

Behavior

Sitatungas live in swamps and marshes and are very skilled swimmers. Swamps provide a year-round supply of rich food, so sitatungas have exceptionally small home ranges. They can half-submerge themselves underwater as a form of protection and camouflage from predators. Sitatungas can also be found on dry, island mounds within swamps. This is typically where they will raise their young and rest.

Young sitatungas independent at a young age. They are often seen grazing on their own and will lay silent for hours waiting for their mother to return from foraging. Although essentially solitary animals, pairs associate for short periods of time to mate.

Fun Facts

Different subspecies of sitatunga across Africa vary in coloration and white markings. Some subspecies do not have vertical white stripes.

Sitatungas will often stay and graze extensively in a small area for days or weeks, then suddenly desert it and move on to another area.

Male sitatungas produce a loud, barking vocalization.