Tragelaphus strepsicerosgreater kudu

Geographic Range

Greater kudus are found in southern and eastern Africa. The population is the most dense in the south. In East Africa, the population is broken up and there are many isolated groups in the mountains (Estes, 1991).

Habitat

Greater kudu are found in a variety of habitats throughout Africa. As long as they have good cover, greater kudu are able to survive in the settled areas of Africa. Greater kudu can be found in habitats that provide bush and thicket cover. In the rains, greater kudu remain in the deciduous woodlands. During the dry season they can be found in along the banks of rivers where there is rich vegetation (Estes, 1991).

Physical Description

Greater kudu are one of the tallest antelopes, with shoulder heights ranging from 100 cm to 150 cm. Greater kudus have the largest horns in the bushbuck tribe, averaging 120 cm in length. The body color of the greater kudu varies from reddish brown to blue-gray, with the darkest individuals found in the southern populations. The color of the males darkens with age. Along its back, the kudu has six to ten stripes. Its tail is black tipped with a white underside. Males possess a beard that females lack (Estes, 1991).

  • Range mass
    120 to 315 kg
    264.32 to 693.83 lb

Reproduction

Greater kudu are seasonal breeders in southern Africa. At the equator, they calve in the rainy season, which is from February to June, and mate near or after the end of the rains (Kingdon, 1982). Females, if well nourished, can breed in two years. Most females, however, do not reach maturity until three years of age. Males are mature in five years. There is a nine month gestation period, and calves are born when the grass is high. Calves remain hidden for two weeks before joining the herd. Greater kudu calves are weaned at six months. Male calves remain in the maternity herd for 1 and 1/2 to 2 years while the females remain in it longer (Estes, 1991).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Range number of offspring
    1 (low)
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    7 to 8.7 months
  • Average weaning age
    6 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    517 days
    AnAge
  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • post-independence association with parents

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

Females live in herds of 1-3 head and their offspring. There is no obvious hierarchical rank in these groups. Sometimes the female groups combine to form larger groups, but these groups are temporary. Males live in bachelor herds, which range in number from 2 to 10 head. It is unclear if males have a distinct hierarchical rank in their groups. Male bachelor herds do not overlap each other, but the range of one male may overlap two or three female herds. Males and females do not have any association with each other except during the mating season. Greater kudus are not very aggressive animals and show patterns of aggression mainly in captivity. In the wild, when greater kudu fight, fighting occurs only between kudus of the same size (Estes, 1991).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Greater kudu are herbivores. They eat a wide variety of leaves, herbs, fruits, vines, flowers, and some new grass. They may water in the dry season but are capable of surviving in a waterless region (Estes, 1991).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

In southern Africa, greater kudus have been hunted for many years. The meat from the greater kudus is very good and the horns of the male kudus are a trophy for many African hunters (Kingdon, 1982). Greater kudu can also be found in zoos throughout the world (Estes, 1991).

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Greater kudus destroy farmers' crops in Africa (Kingdon, 1982).

Conservation Status

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Other Comments

Greater kudu have been able to reclaim much of their southern habitat, which was threatened by increased human population. The northern population, however, has not been able to reclaim their territory and remain in sparse, isolated populations (Estes, 1991). Greater kudu are prey for several animals in Africa, including lions, leopards, wild dogs, and spotted hyaenas (Kingdon, 1982).

Contributors

Toni Lynn Newell (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5? N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

Estes, R. 1991. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. The University of California Press. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London.

Kingdon, J. 1982. East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa, Volume III Part C (Bovids). Academic Press Ins. (London) Ltd. London and New York.