Greater Kudu - Spiral-horned High-jumper
The Greater Kudu belongs to a group of spiral-horned antelope known as the Tragelaphines. All are characterised by a deep body, striped coat, narrow head and very large ears. Except in the two largest members of the tribe (Eland and Bongo) only the males possess the impressive corkscrew horns. Bushbuck, Nyala, Sitatunga and Lesser Kudu are the other representatives.
Like its relatives, the Greater Kudu is a selective browser of nutritious plant material, and there is a distinct change in its diet from the wet to dry season. Small leafy forbs often dominate, but the new growth of Acacia is favoured in spring, and dry Combretum leaves are consumed in winter. These plants use chemical defences when they are heavily browsed upon by Kudu and when there are many of these antelope (and pressure on plants is unrelenting) the extreme tannin content of foliage may actually poison the antelope. They also eat selected flowers and ripening seedpods when available.
Females and Males live apart
Greater Kudu live in small herds of related cows and their recent offspring, or in bachelor groups of males. Family groups of related females and their young typically occupy a home range of between 300 and 600 hectares, while bachelor groups of up to ten males reside in a larger area of about 1000 hectares. Mature males live alone, in pairs, or in small groups, but accompany female herds when individuals are in heat. The horns of males reach their maximum length - and spiral magnificence - at the age of six years. Females are sexually mature at three years and gestation lasts for nine months. The single calf remains hidden for the first three weeks or so, and is weaned at around six months.
A Fight to the Death
Bulls fight tenaciously among themselves for access to females, kicking up a great deal of dust as they batter each other and sometimes lock horns. It is not unknown for males to joust to the point of complete exhaustion and even death, and in rare instances combatants may lock horns in such a way that they cannot extricate themselves, and thus die of dehydration or hunger.
Despite their great size - bulls may weigh up to 315kg - Kudu are prodigious jumpers and are said to be able to clear 3.5 metre fences under duress. They can be a major hazard to drivers after dark as they commonly jump in front of speeding vehicles. Adults emit loud, raucous barks which are used primarily as alarms against predators but may also serve as a means of dominance among rival bulls. Lion are the only predators able to tackle healthy adult males, but there are few areas in Africa where Kudu make up a major portion of their diet. Females, youngsters and weakened animals are prone to attack by Wild Dog, Spotted Hyena, Cheetah and Leopard.
Where to see Greater Kudu at &Beyond properties
Southern Africa supports substantial numbers of Greater Kudu, and this is one of the most abundant antelope at Matetsi, Londolozi, Bongani, Ngala and Phinda where viewing and photographic opportunities are excellent. Good numbers are also present in the dense bushland of Kwandwe. Greater Kudu do not occur in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, but the closely-related Lesser Kudu is present in the Lake Natron-Namanga region to the north-east of Ngorongoro.
Posted: Mammals by CC Africa, Date: 21 November 2006