An Ingwelala animal that is naturally more visible during the cooler and dry winter months is the Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros).
The kudu (koedoe in Afrikaans) derived its name directly from the Khoikhoi, and folk lore has it that the name is descriptive of the sound the animal’s hooves makes as it lopes away from any predator or danger.
The kudu is a stunningly handsome and majestic antelope, the second biggest antelope in fact, and the impressive horns which the males display may reach lengths of up to 1.8 metres. It is one of nine species of antelope that have spiral horns belonging to the group Strepsicerotini. The females are without horns and are smaller and lighter than the males, which can attain a body mass of 315 kg. Another distinguishing characteristic of the kudu are the lateral lines on the sides of the body. These lines can vary in number. Body colouration ranges from tawny brown to charcoal/grey brown. A mane occurs in both sexes.
In Africa, the kudu occurs as far north as Chad, but favours the eastern, central and southern parts of the continent. It avoids dessert and forest areas, and its preferred habitat also excludes open grassland areas. Kudu are a savanna woodland species. In the Lowveld, males are known to prefer ranging in riparian woodlands and enjoy the vegetation found along drainage lines. Females are better at utilizing a range of habitats. In seasons of normal rainfall, kudu are able to obtain their moisture needs from their food intake. They enjoy hilly, broken ground provided there is adequate woody cover and are able to survive in very close proximate to human settlements.
The IUCN Red List classifies kudu as “Least Concern” in terms of its conservation status and threat. However, loss of natural habitat through development and over hunting of this species is always an immediate conservation threat. Kudu are susceptible to diseases such as anthrax and rabies.
Home ranges average about 16 square kilometers. Female herds with their offspring may number up to 25 individuals, whereas the larger males range more widely and form loose associations of bachelor groups. Male competition is in the form of neck and size display, aggression resulting in the locking of horns. There are recorded incidents of these spectacular spiral horns not always being able to unlock, resulting in the death of both challengers. Females give birth, usually in January and February, after a nine month gestation period. The young are hidden in the undergrowth which the female visits to nurse.
Kudu are not fussy browsers, being one of the least selective in food choice. They will browse on a range of plants, but mostly enjoy acacia spp, including pods, vines, fruits, herbs, some grass and flowers. Ingwelala kudu eat the common plants which you know as knob-thorn, bush-willow spp, sickle- bush, marula and umbrella thorns. Kudus that proximate human settlements are known to raid agricultural crops such as sunflowers.
Facts researched from: The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion (JD Skinner and RHN Smithers: 1990) and the Internet, text by John Llewellyn.