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The Antelopes of Africa (and the Critters that Eat Them)

In May-June 2020, our nature photography photo theme is: "The Antelopes of Africa, and the Critters that Eat Them"...

 

This theme is all about recognising the incredible diversity of antelopes found in Africa (72 of 91 species worldwide), how and why they've evolved, and what predators have evolved in unison to eat them, maintaining the wonderful Circle of Life.

 

I'll start off this theme with a little insight into the world of antelopes... African antelopes, specifically those I encountered over the last five years of travel across southern and East Africa.

 

Firstly, it's important we know where antelopes sit in the classification of species, or Linnaean taxonomy, the system by which we describe species from another via physical characteristics they possess.

 

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Antelopes sit here:

 

1. Kingdom: Animalia (animals).

2. Phylum: Chordata (chordates ~ backbone).

3. Class: Mammalia (mammals ~ mammary glands, neocortex, fur/hair, middle ear bones).

4. Order: Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates/hoofed animals).

4a. Suborder: Ruminantia (ruminants eg. 4-chambered stomach/digestive system).

4aa. Infraorder: Pecora (cranial appendages aka horns).

5. Family - Bovidae (males have two or more horns). 143 spp.

5a. Subfamilies x 8 listed below (all bovids that aren't cattle, goats or sheep).

6. Genus - Antelope (8 main subfamilies eg. Tragelaphinae, who are all species that don't fall under categories of sheep, goats or cattle, and whose horns constantly grow (unlike deer who shed antlers seasonally and belong to Family: Cervidae)). 30 genera, 91 species.

7. Species - 91 species found across Africa (72) and Eurasia (19), though for this exercise we will address only species that I have personally seen whilst travelling 12 countries of East and southern Africa: Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho.

 

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I know this is turning into a long post, but the species list (total 33 species, all herbivores, either grazers/browsers) looks like this:

 

Subfamily Aepycerotinae (impalas, ~1 species):
1. Impala (common, black-faced)

 

Subfamily Antelopinae (general antelopes, ~41 species):
2. Springbok
3. Thomson’s gazelle
4. Gerenuk
5. Grant’s gazelle
6. Kirk’s dik-dik
7. Klipspringer
8. Oribi
9. Steenbok
10. Sharpe’s grysbok

 

Subfamily Cephalophinae (duikers, ~22 species):
11. Common duiker
12. Red duiker

 

Subfamily Hippotraginae (grazing antelope, horse-like, ~8 species):
13. Roan antelope
14. Sable antelope (common, giant)
15. East African oryx (common beisa, fringe-eared)
16. Gemsbok (oryx)

 

Subfamily Reduncinae ("water-loving" antelope, ~9 species):
17. Waterbuck (common, Defassa)
18. Lechwe (red, Nile)
19. Puku (Senga, southern)
20. Reedbuck (southern, mountain)

 

Subfamily Tragelaphinae (spiral-horned antelope, ~7 species):
21. Bushbuck
22. Sitatunga
23. Nyala
24. Kudu (lesser, greater)
25. Eland (common, western giant, eastern giant)

 

Subfamily Alcelaphinae (wildebeest, hartebeest, bonteboks, ~10 species):
26. Tsessebe (common/sassaby, Bangwelu)
27. Topi
28. Bontebok
29. Blesbok
30. Coke's hartebeest
31. Red hartebeest
32. Lichtenstein's hartebeest
33. Black wildebeest
34. Blue wildebeest (blue/common, eastern, western)

 

Subfamily Peleinae (Rhebok):
35. Grey rhebok

 

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I'll leave this post here for now, but will come back to this species/taxonomic breakdown in more detail in coming posts

 

And we'll get into more detail about the critters that eat them (predators, scavengers and omnivore opportunists) soon too.

 

Of these 35 Antelope species I've encountered on my travels across Africa, you can potentially see 29 on RAW Worldwide Safaris. For more information on what Safaris I offer, visit my Expeditions page here, and please send me an inquiry if you'd like to know more.