Southern reedbuck (Redunca arundinum)

Also known as: Common reedbuck
GenusRedunca (1)
SizeHead-body length: 120 - 160 cm (2)
Male shoulder height: 80 - 105 cm (3)
Female shoulder height: 65 - 95 cm (3)
Male weight: 60 - 95 kg (2)
Female weight: 50 - 85 kg (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

An elegant antelope of Africa’s grasslands, the southern reedbuck can be identified by the distinctive dark lines that run down the front of each of its forelegs and lower hindlegs (3). The colour of its coat varies between light brown to greyish-brown, often turning lighter on the neck and chest. White fur defines the underparts and area around the lips and chin, while a distinctive black patch below each ear is the site of a gland (3). The short, bushy tail is white on its underside (3). Male and female southern reedbucks can be easily distinguished as only the males bear forward-curving horns, which measure between 30 and 45 centimetres, and are ridged for most of their length except for the smooth tips (3). At the base of the horns is a band of pale, rubbery tissue (3), a feature which is unique to the reedbucks of the genus Redunca (4). The southern reedbuck makes a number of characteristic noises, including a piercing whistle through the nostrils, and a distinctive ‘popping’ sound, caused by the inguinal glands, heard when the southern reedbuck jumps (3) (4).

The southern reedbuck has a wide distribution, stretching from Gabon and Tanzania to South Africa (5).

An inhabitant of moist grasslands, such as floodplains (1) (4), the southern reedbuck prefers areas of tall grass near water (3). It has also proved able to inhabit pastures, provided there is sufficient cover nearby (4).

The southern reedbuck is a monogamous antelope, with a pair inhabiting a territory which is defended by the male from other males (3) (4). Within this territory the southern reedbuck is active during the night and day, following regularly-used paths to reach suitable resting and grazing sites and a source of water (3) (5). Fresh grass makes up the majority of this grazing antelope’s diet, often unpalatable grass species that are avoided by other antelopes, but it will also feed on herbs (3) (5). Unlike some other species inhabiting this frequently arid, hot region of Africa, the southern reedbuck needs to drink water from every few days, to several times a day during the dry season (3), sometimes resulting in up to 20 southern reedbucks congregating around a water source (5).

The southern reedbuck breeds year round, although there is a peak in the summer rainy season. A single young is born after a gestation period of around eight months, and remains amongst the dense grass cover in which it was born for the next two months (3). Areas of tall grass, which provide sufficient cover during this critical time, are therefore an essential habitat requirement of the southern reedbuck (4). During this period, the female does not stay with her young, but instead visits it for just 10 to 30 minutes each day (3). Female southern reedbucks reach maturity in their second year of life, at which point they leave their parent’s territory. Males, which reach maturity at a slightly older age, may remain with the family group until their third year (4). This antelope has an average lifespan of ten years (3).

Although southern reedbucks are widespread, and are therefore not considered to be globally threatened with extinction (1), a number of human activities have resulted in the loss of this antelope from many parts of its former range (1) (4). Unfortunately, the moist grasslands favoured by this species are also highly sought after by humans, for settlements, cultivation, grazing and afforestation (1) (4) (6). Furthermore, the southern reedbuck is hunted for meat and trophies (1), and is reportedly one of the easiest antelopes to approach and kill (5).

This combination of habitat loss and exploitation has resulted in the species becoming rare in most of South Africa, and reduced populations to precariously low levels in West and Central Africa; those in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo may already have been eliminated (5).

About 60 percent the global population of southern reedbucks is thought to occur in protected areas and about 13 percent on private land (1), which should hopefully offer some security against the threat of habitat degradation. Due to the loss of its natural habitat in some areas, the southern reedbuck can now be found in livestock pastures. Its occurrence in this privately-owned land means that for many populations, their future relies on the actions of private land owners (4).

To contribute to conservation efforts in Africa’s grasslands and savannas visit:

Authenticated (24/03/10) by Dr David Mallon, Co-Chair, IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group.

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2008)
  2. Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, London.
  3. Schütze, H. (2002) Field Guide to the Mammals of the Kruger National Park. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  4. Mills, G. and Hes, L. (1997) The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  5. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker's Mammals of the World. 5th Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  6. Ministry of Environment and Tourism. (2003) Species Management Plan for Southern Reedbuck Redunca arundinum arundinum, Common Waterbuck Kobus ellipsiprymnus ellipsiprymnus, Red Lechwe Kobus leche leche and Puku Kobus vardoni. Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Republic of Namibia. Available at: