The springbok has many adaptations to enable a successful existence in the harsh and unpredictable environment of Africa’s arid south-west. They are opportunists, in both their feeding and breeding behaviour (2). During the hot, rainy summers springbok primarily graze on grasses and turn to browsing on shrubs in the colder and drier winters (3). They are also fond of feeding on flowers when available, and when water is scarce springbok seek out moisture-rich roots, tubers and succulent foliage (2). Springbok will drink water whenever it is available, but also maintain their water balance by feeding at night, when the rise in humidity increases the water content of vegetation (3).
Springboks are opportunistic breeders and can breed year-round, often synchronising the birth of their young with periods of high rainfall when there is an abundance of green grass shoots to feed on. Normally a single lamb is born (3), after a 25 week gestation (2), and is initially left hiding in a protected place, such as a bush, whilst the mother grazes away from her offspring. Their time apart gradually becomes less, and by three to four weeks of age, the lamb begins to spend most their time with maternal herd. Lambs are weaned at five to six months (3).
Females may remain within the maternal herd indefinitely, whilst young males leave the herd at 6 to 12 months to join a bachelor herd, and reach sexual maturity by the age of two (3). However, to be able to breed a male must hold a territory, and defend an area that hopefully contains resources attractive to females (2). During the rut those males with the most attractive territories will mate with the most females (2), and many fights occur during over territories during the rutting period. The ringed horns are effective fighting weapons, although they can become locked together during a fight, resulting in the death of one or both of the participants (3).
Springboks are renowned for their pronking, or stotting, behaviour. This comprises several consecutive stiff-legged jumps, up to two meters high, with the back arched and the white crest of hair raised (3). Pronking may have several functions. It is a common response to predators; those that jump higher or at a faster rate, are fitter and faster, a fact the predator should recognise and so pick out a weaker victim (2). It is also for purposes of orientation, as the springbok can take in their physical surroundings, and the position of predators and other springboks (5). There is also a social role; the fold of skin on the back produces a secretion with a strong, sweet odour that can be released while pronking (3), and thus sends out visual and olfactory messages to other springbok (5).