Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus)

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Male klipspringer
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Klipspringer fact file

Klipspringer description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyBovidae
GenusOreotragus (1)

This fascinating small antelope has a number of distinct features that make it well adapted to its rugged, rocky habitat (3). It is unique amongst the antelope for walking on the tips of its hooves and it has a remarkable dense, coarse coat consisting of hollow hairs that rustle when shaken or touched (2) (3). When the klipspringer is hot or sick its fur stands erect, giving the illusion of being much larger than it actually is (2). The coat varies in colour from yellow-brown to grey-yellow, with whitish underparts, chin and lips (4). In most areas only the males have horns, which are short, widely-spaced apart and ringed near the base; in the Ethiopian, Ugandan and Tanzanian populations some females may have horns too (4) (pers). The black-edged ears have white parts that catch attention when flicked (2). Numerous subspecies of the klipspringer have been described, but only one is recognised as valid for the purpose of assessing its conservation status: the western klipspringer (5).

Size
Head-body length: 75 – 115 cm (2)
Weight
8 – 18 kg (2)
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Klipspringer biology

Klipspringers are monogamous animals that are nearly always seen in pairs, usually with one offspring. The bond between a male and female is strong and enduring; they spend most of their time within a few metres of each other with one being look-out while the other feeds, and this relationship usually lasts until one dies (3). Together the pair defends a territory in which they feed on herbs and low foliage, sometimes seeds, fruits, buds, twigs and bark, and grasses in the wet season (2) (3). Occasionally groups of eight or more klipspringers may be seen, but these quickly split back into family groups when disturbed (3).

Like many animals that live in Africa’s hot climate, klipspringers generally rest during the heat of the day, and are also generally inactive after midnight (2). The gestation period of the klipspringer is 210 days (4), after which a well-developed young is born. The young hides in vegetation for up to three months, while its mother visits three or four times a day for suckling (2).

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Klipspringer range

Occurs from north-east to southern Africa, with a few isolated populations in central Africa. The western klipspringer is found in Nigeria and the Central African Republic (5)

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Klipspringer habitat

Klipspringers inhabit rocky, stony ground with abundant short vegetation (2), from coastal hills up to elevations of 4,500 metres (4).

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Klipspringer status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). Subspecies: Oreotragus oreotragus porteousi (western klipspringer) is classified as Endangered (EN) (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Klipspringer threats

Klipspringers are vulnerable to both hunting and competition from goats. These threats have resulted in populations in some areas being eliminated and others, particularly in agricultural regions, becoming rare (2) (5). Consequently, the western klipspringer in Nigeria and the Central African Republic has been classified as Endangered by the IUCN (1) (5).

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Klipspringer conservation

The klipspringer has been classified as Lower Risk / Conservation Dependent because its future depends on its continued protection in many National Parks, reserves, hunting concessions and private farmland (1) (5), such as Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, a World Heritage Site (6). Large populations in very inaccessible areas are also believed to be fairly secure. However, the western klipspringer subspecies is at risk of extinction if no attempts are made to implement protective measures or begin a captive breeding programme (5), and so conservation measures are urgently required to save this distinctive and fascinating antelope.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on the klipspringer see:

  • Mills, G. and Hes, L. (1997) The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

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Authentication

Authenticated (11/04/08) by Dr Jeremy David.

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Glossary

Monogamous
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2007)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press Limited, London.
  3. Mills, G. and Hes, L. (1997) The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  4. Stuart, C. and Stuart, T. (1997) Field Guide to the Larger African Mammals of Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  5. East, R. (1999) African Antelope Database 1998. IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  6. UNEP-WCMC: Serengeti National Park (December, 2007)
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/sites/wh/pdf/Serengeti.pdf
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Image credit

Male klipspringer  
Male klipspringer

© Richard Du Toit / naturepl.com

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