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Klipspringer

A klipspringer, Brevard Zoo, Melbourne, Florida, USA

The klipspringer (pronounced /ˈklipˌspriŋə(r)/) (Oreotragus oreotragus) is a small antelope found in eastern and southern Africa. The sole member of its genus, the klipspringer was first described by German zoologist Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmermann in 1783. The klipspringer is a small, sturdy antelope; it reaches 43–60 centimetres (17–24 in) at the shoulder and weighs from 8 to 18 kilograms (18 to 40 lb). The coat of the klipspringer, yellowish gray to reddish brown, acts as an efficient camouflage in its rocky habitat. Unlike most other antelopes, the klipspringer has a thick and coarse coat with hollow, brittle hairs. The horns, short and spiky, present only on males, typically measure 7.5–9 centimetres (3.0–3.5 in).

Typically nocturnal (active mainly at night), the klipspringer rests during the middle of the day and late at night. A gregarious animal, the klipspringer is monogamous to a much greater extent than other antelopes; individuals of opposite sexes exhibit long-term to lifelong pair bonding. The mates tend to stay as close as within 5 metres (16 ft) of each other at most times. Males form territories, 7.5–49 hectares (19–121 acres), in which they stay with their partners and offspring. Primarily a browser, the klipspringer prefers young plants, fruits and flowers. Gestation lasts around six months, following which a single calf is born; births peak from spring to early summer. The calf leaves its mother when it turns a year old.

The klipspringer inhabits places characterised by rocky terrain and sparse vegetation. Its range extends from northeastern Sudan, Eritrea, northern Somalia and Ethiopia in the east to South Africa in the south, and along coastal Angola and Namibia. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) classifies the klipspringer as Least Concern. There are no major threats to the survival of the klipspringer, as its habitat is inaccessible and unfavourable for hunting. Significant numbers occur on private farmlands. As of 2008, nearly 25% of the populations occur in protected areas throughout its range.

Description Edit

This fascinating small antelope has a number of distinct features that make it well adapted to its rugged, rocky habitat. 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. When the klipspringer is hot or sick its fur stands erect, giving the illusion of being much larger than it actually is. The coat varies in colour from yellow-brown to grey-yellow, with whitish underparts, chin and lips. 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 (pers). The black-edged ears have white parts that catch attention when flicked. 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.

Ecology and Behavior Edit

Typically nocturnal (active mainly at night), the klipspringer rests during the midday and at late night; the animal tends to be more active on moonlit nights. It basks in the morning sunlight to warm itself. A gregarious animal, the klipspringer, like the dik-diks and the oribi, exhibits monogamy to a much greater extent than other antelopes; individuals of opposite sexes form pairs that might last until one dies. The mates tend to stay as close as within 5 metres (16 ft) of each other at most times; for instance, they take turns at keeping a lookout for predators while the other feeds, and face any danger together. The klipspringer will hop a few metres away from the danger. Other social groups include small family herds of 8 or more members or solitary individuals. Klipspringer greet one another by rubbing cheeks at social meetings.

Males form territories, 7.5–49 hectares (19–121 acres) large (the size depends on rainfall patterns), in which they stay with their partners and offspring. Males are generally more vigilant than females. Klipspringer form large dung heaps, nearly 1 metre (3.3 ft) across and 10 centimetres (3.9 in) deep, at the borders of territories; another form of marking is the secretion of a thick, black substance, measuring 5 millimetres (0.20 in) across, from the preorbital glands onto vegetation and rocks in the territories. A study revealed that the tick Ixodes neitzi detects and aggregates on twigs marked by the klipspringer. Another study showed that plants near the borders with neighbouring territories are particularly preferred for marking. The main vocalisation is a shrill whistle, given out be the klipspringer pair in a duet, as a means of communication or anti-predator response. Predators include the baboon, black-backed jackalcaracalleopardmartial eagleservalspotted hyena and Verreaux's eagle. Birds such as familiar chatspale-winged starlingsred-winged starlings and yellow-bellied bulbuls have been observed feeding on ectoparasites of klipspringer.

Diet Edit

Primarily a browser, the klipspringer prefers young plants, fruits and flowers. Grasses, eaten mainly in the wet season, form a minor portion of the diet. Some plants, such as Vellozia, may be preferred seasonally. Klipspringer depend mainly on succulent plants, and not on water bodies, to meet their water requirement. They can stand on their hindlegs to reach tall branches up to 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) above the ground; some individuals in Namibia were observed climbing Faidherbia albida trees up to a height of 5.4 metres (18 ft).

Reproduction Edit

The klipspringer is a seasonal breeder; the time when mating occurs varies geographically. Females become sexually mature by the time they are a year old; males take slightly longer to mature. Mating behaviour has not been extensively observed. Gestation lasts around six months, following which a single calf, weighing slightly more than 1 kilogram (2.2 lb), is born; births peak from spring to early summer. Births take place in dense vegetation. The newborn is carefully hidden for up to three months to protect it from the view of predators; the mother suckles it three to four times a day, the visits gradually lengthen as the offspring grows. Males are protective of their offspring, keeping a watch for other males and predators. The calf is weaned at four to five months, and leaves its mother when it turns a year old. The klipspringer lives for around 15 years.

Range and Habitat Edit

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

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