Springbok: Breeding out the wild for fur and meat?
Native to the treeless plains of southern Africa, most Americans more than likely have never heard of the springbok. Also called springbuck, this incredibly graceful antelope is part of the gazelle tribe. At one time, enormous herds could be seen galloping across the plains. Sadly, like so many other African species, their numbers have reduced.
How Nikela Helps
Although Nikela does not have a project that directly protects Springbok many awareness campaigns address the plight of Africa’s endangered and threatened wildlife species as a whole. Actually Nikela is for preserving all wild things and their wild places.
Facts about Springbok
The springbok, along with the black wildebeest and blesbok, used to migrate in huge herds (sometimes consisting of over 1 million!) These herds were referred to has a “trek” or “trekbokken” and were commonly found in South Africa’s vast Highveld and Karoo regions. Today, most are found on game reserves or privately owned farms and ranches. However, remote sightings of the springbok have been seen in the deserts of Botswana’s Kalahari, Namibia, and Angola.
Springboks have a coat of reddish brown, with white heads, ears, underside, back of legs, rump, and tail. They are marked with a dark, think stripe that divides their bodies in half. Another stripe runs from each eye to their upper lip. Horns on the springbok have hooked tips and point inward. Because their unusual shape, many comment that the horns look like a stethoscope. Female horns are smaller and thinner than their male counterparts which average 14-19 inches in length. Springboks have an average body length of 4-4.5 feet and typically weigh between 66-105 pounds. If they can outrun their main predators the cheetah, leopard, and lion, they have a life span of seven to nine years.
Herbivores by nature, springbok are also mixed feeders, meaning that they switch between grazing and browsing seasonally. When grasses are at their freshest and water is more abundant, they graze. On the flip side, they browse on shrubs and flowers and more water rich plants when water is scarce. Incredibly, a springbok can survive the dry season without any water. Even more astonishing, some can live their entire lives without drinking a single drop of water.
Behavior and social groups
Disginishing itself from its closest cousin–the gazelle–is a patch of white hair (normally concealed beneath a skin fold) that gets erected whenever the springbok gets excited and performs a special form of jumping known as “pronking.”
Characterized by repeated high leaps (some are known to leap has high has 13 feet) into the air accompanied by a “particular stiff-legged posture with its back bowed and white fan lifted,” the exact reason for pronking, or stotting, is unknown. A common held theory is that the movement indicates to predators that have been spotted.
Once the chase is on however, springboks can reach speeds up to 56 miles per hour and they are among the top ten fastest land animals in the world (which is a good thing when one of your top enemies is the fastest land mammal in the world!)
Socially, the springbok gather during the wet seasons and disperse during the dry ones, an unusual among most African animals.
Conservation status and threats
Hunted man since the beginning of time by primitive man, springbok are presently hunted as game throughout Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa for their beautiful coats. The export of springbok fur skins is a growing industry. Additionally, their meat is considered a prized fare.
Did You Know?
The name Springbok in Afrikaans and Dutch means:
spring – jump
bok – antelope, deer or goat
The South African national rugby union team are known as the “Springboks“
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Wendy Sotos
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