Monday, 10 October 2011
Scientific Name: greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), lesser kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis)
Size: 55 inches (greater kudu)
Weight: 565 pounds (greater kudu)
Lifespan: 7 to 8 years in the wild and up to 23 years in captivity
Habitat: Dense bush or forest
Gestation: Up to 9 months (greater kudu)
Predators: leopards, hunting dogs, spotted hyenas, humans
Both the greater kudu and its close cousin the lesser kudu have stripes and spots on the body, and most have a chevron of white hair between the eyes. Males have long, spiral horns. The greater kudu's horns are spectacular and can grow as long as 72 inches, making 2 1/2 graceful twists.
Female greater kudus are noticeably smaller than the males. By contrast, lesser kudus are even smaller, about 42 inches at the shoulder; males weigh around 220 pounds while females generally weigh about 50 pounds less. Lesser kudus have smaller horns than the greater kudus and conspicuous white patches on the upper and lower parts of the neck. Although both species are bluish-gray, grayish-brown or rust color, the lesser has five to six more lateral white stripes, for a total of 11 to 15. Both species have a crest of long hair along the spine, and greater kudus also have a fringe under the chin.
Lesser kudus are found in acacia and commiphora thornbush in arid savannas; they rely on thickets for security and are rarely found in open or scattered bush. Greater kudus are found in woodlands and bushlands.
Male kudu sometimes form small bachelor groups, but more commonly they are solitary and widely dispersed. Dominance between males is usually quickly and peacefully determined by a lateral display in which one male stands sideways in front of the other and makes himself look as large as possible. Males only join females, who form small groups of six to 10 with their offspring, during mating season. Calves grow rapidly and at 6 months are fairly independent of their mothers.
The pregnant female departs from her group to give birth, leaving the newborn lying out for 4 or 5 weeks, one of the longest periods of all the antelopes. The calf then begins to accompany its mother for short periods of time and by 3 or 4 months is with her constantly. Soon after, the mother and calf rejoin the female's group. Calves grow rapidly and at 6 months are fairly independent of their mothers.
Kudus are browsers and eat leaves and shoots from a variety of plants. In dry seasons, they eat wild watermelons and other fruit for the liquid they provide. The lesser kudu is less dependent on water sources than the greater kudu.
Predators and Threats
Many predators, such as big cats, wild dogs, hyenas, eagles and pythons hunt kudu and their young. Kudu numbers are also affected by humans hunting them for their meat, hides and horns, or using their habitats for charcoal burning and farming. Kudus are highly susceptible to the rinderpest virus, and many scientists think recurring epidemics of the disease have reduced kudu populations in East Africa.
Did You Know?
• Their cryptic coloring and markings protect kudus by camouflaging them. If alarmed they usually stand still and are very difficult to spot.
• Kudus normally restrict their movements to a small home range, but the scarcity of food in dry season may prompt them to roam more widely.