An update on the graceful and unique antelope species native to Africa.
About Antelope Species
The Antelopes all have in common their deer-like features, smooth hair and horns, and sophisticated ability to run up to 25 meters per second. All Antelopes have permanently attached horns, and in the cases of some species, such as the Greater Kudu, these horns are easily distinguishable and twist in interesting spiral shapes. In other species, the horns grow in wide curves and have a sharp point at the end. Unlike deer, Antelopes do not shed their horns each year. Most of the 91 species of antelope are native to Africa and live primarily in plains or grassland, or are indigenous to various regions of Eurasia. However, there are other species that have lived in or been introduced to other habitats. The Gemsbok species, for example, which live primarily in the desert, have recently been introduced to the Tularosa Basin in the United States. As far as their diet goes, Antelopes in general thrive off of grass, shoots, and seeds, and are hunted by the lion, cheetah, and crocodile. To avoid predators, many Antelopes gather in large herds to rely on numbers and good hearing for protection, or simply use dense bush as cover.
Threats to Antelope Species
Unfortunately, many species of this beautiful animal are dying out due to shrinking habitats caused by human activity, poaching, and natural predation. Humans have hunted the Greater Kudu, a species prized for its horns and meat, to near extinction. The horns poached by humans are then used as containers or musical instruments. Much of the Greater Kudu’s population has also been taken over for farming purposes and charcoal burning. The Gemsbok species of antelope, known for the white patches on their legs that look like socks, are not threatened so far, but face a similar fate as the Greater Kudu population as they are hunted by humans who wish to possess their horns. If this continues, the Gemsbok species could become threatened or face extinction much like the Greater Kudu is now. Like the Gemsbok population, the Springbok antelope species, a medium sized antelope found in South Africa, are classified as a thriving species with no risk of extinction. In fact, the Springbok antelope species is considered to be expanding. However, like the Gemsbok or Greater Kudu species, the Springbok species are hunted by humans for its coat. The export of Springbok skins is a large industry across parts of Namibia and South Africa. The skins are then used for taxidermy. Springbok meat is also considered valuable, and is routinely sold in South African markets.
Who’s Helping Save Antelope Species
Right now, many organizations such as the African Wildlife Foundation are working to help critical species, such as the Greater Kudu with projects put in place to restore the Kudu’s habitat. For example, planting trees in forested ecosystem or proper planning of new projects to ensure a balance between human modernity and conversation of Grater Kudu habitats. Although the Springbok species and the Gemsbok species are classified as Least Concern and do not face immediate danger regarding the survival of their species, it is important that the hunting of these species is regulated to ensure that they will not fall into a threatened status or face extinction in the future.
Why Antelope Species Are Important
Antelopes play an important role in the ecosystems they are a part of. Like many other species, they help maintain biodiversity, which ensures sustainability for all organisms in the ecosystem. The natural predators that feed off of antelopes, for example, would lose their source of food. And without any antelopes to keep the plant population in check with their diet, there would be an overabundance of those same plant species which antelopes normally eat. It is clear that the removal of antelopes would cause catastrophic consequences for these ecosystems across multiple levels of the food chain. For the sake of this species, it is important to preserve their living space, and for humans to regulate or outlaw the hunting of Antelope horns, meat, and skin. There is still hope for the Greater Kudu. The Gemsbok, Springbok, and Blesbok antelope species, on the other hand, should ideally continue to grow and thrive as they are now.
For more information visit African Wildlife Species
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Sanika Phadnis