The focus in this month’s report is another mammal that rarely makes it to the reception sightings book!
The Steenbuck is aptly named. With the rich, dark reddish brown colour to the coat, it is considered a ‘dwarf’ Antelope. Adult animals reach a maximum of 60cm shoulder height and weigh no more than 12kg. Steenbuck are highly territorial with area marked and defended against other Steenbuck. The territorial area can differ vastly in size. This is entirely dependent on food availability within those areas. Size of ranges are between 1000m2 and up to 1 hectare.
The diet of the Steenbuck is varied and will include grasses, seeds, berries and leaves. If the food sources are high within a marked area, Steenbuck may pair up for life. However, they are mostly solitary animals and will only come together during the mating season.
Once mating has occurred, the female will give birth to a single fawn in the early summer months. Although the fawn will be able to follow its mother within hours of birth, the mother will keep it hidden for 4-6 weeks from birth, returning only to feed and clean it. The mother will occasionally move its young to differing hiding places. This is done to remove the scent trail from potential predators.
Predators are many and varied. With the Steenbuck the size it is, it will fall prey to Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Wild Dog, Caracal, Jackal, Hyena, as well as the bigger raptors including the Martial Eagle.
Interestingly, the male Steenbuck is the only antelope with a reported ‘toilet etiquette’. This involves the scraping of the ground prior to urination or defecation, and then the covering of same when completed. The reasoning for this behaviour is two-fold, firstly, by covering up, the moisture and scent is retained for longer which means less marking is needed in the future. Secondly the visual marker for predators is removed, which is especially important in these small territories.
by Chris Mayes.