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THE KLIPSPRINGER

Updated: 27 May 2014
(Published: 12 December 2013)

QUICK FACTS

Scientific Name : Oreotragus oretragus

Weight (Adult Ram) : Mean 10.6 kg

Weight (Adult Ewe) : Mean 13.2 kg

Shoulder height (Adult Ram/Ewe) : From 45 to 60 cm

Gestation : From 150 to 214 days

Weight at birth : Just more than 1 kg

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The klipspringer Oreotragus oretragus has no common name in English but the common name in Afrikaans can roughly be translated to rock hopper. It was originally described scientifically as Antilope oreotragusoreotragus by Linnaeus in 1783 based on a specimen from False Bay in the Western Cape Province. As Antilope only occurs in India, the genus Oreotragus was created by A Smith in 1834. There are currently five subspecies that are recognized, all of them occurring in Africa, with Oretragus oretragus tyleri occurring in Angola and Namibia. In South-Africa only the subspecies Oreotragus oreotragus oreotragus is currently recognized and there are no regional cytotypes. Cytotypes are individuals with different chromosomal characteristics. This implies that despite the isolated rocky habitats there is enough contact between seemingly isolated populations. As is morphologically evident from the shape of the head, the klipspringer is most closely related to the duikers of the genus Cephalophus to which the red duiker Cephalophus natalensis also belongs.

The klipspringer is superbly adapted to life in a rocky habitat. The adult ram has a shoulder height of 45 to 60 cm and weighs less (mean: 10.6 kg) than the ewe (mean: 13.2 kg). the coat colour varies regionally from yellow that is speckled with brown to greyer and duller in northern Africa and golden-yellow in South Africa. In South Africa the back is grizzled with black and the belly is white. The tail is short and stumpy and is also golden-yellow. The hollow, flattened and spiny hairs were used as saddle stuffing earlier because they form a springy base and are unique among the antelopes of southern Africa. These hairs reflect radiated heat, which can be high in a rocky habitat, while increasing moisture conservation in the body. In southern Africa only the rams carry horns but in Kenya and Tanzania both rams and ewes have horns. 

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The longest horns on record at Rowland Ward measured 10.19 cm and came from Gravelotte in the Limpopo province of South Africa where they were collected in 1993. There are two conspicuous pre-orbital glands in naked, black slits just below the eyes. Secretions from these glands are used in marking territories.

The agile rock jumping proficiency of a klipspringer is aided by walking on the tips of the hooves which end in blunt tips and only leave rounded depressions in soft ground. Its hoof adaptations limits the klipspringer to rocky habitats but the klipspringer can move over long distances over flat terrain between habitats and are often found in rocky outcrops as far as 10 km apart.

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Klipspringers mostly form mated pairs of adults for life and they bounce easily from rock to rock. They are most active late in the afternoon on hot days but can be active throughout the day on cool days. When they are unsettled they will stand motionless on a high rock for hours on end to survey the surroundings. They are highly territorial and mark their territories by depositing the secretion of the pre-orbital glands on twigs. 

Dung heaps are also established on the territory boundaries, and scent-marking is most frequent on the territory boundary between adjacent pairs. The klipspringer is predominantly a concentrate browser but is does eat a small volume of grass and also eats wild fruits. It is independent of surface water but will drink water when it is available.

Mating occurs at any time of the year but the peaks vary regionally. Gestation is believed to last around 214 days but it may be as short as 150 days. A single lamb is born in the shelter of rocks or dense vegetation. The lamb weighs just more than 1 kg at birth, remains hidden for two to three months and is weaned when it is four to five months old. Leopards, caracals and eagles are the major causes of mortality in wild klipspringers.


References:

Grubb, P 2005. Order Artiodactyla. In D E Wilson and D M Reeder (Eds), Mammal species of the world, third edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, p 686.

Skinner, J D and C T Chimimba (Eds) 2005. The mammals of the southern African subregion, third edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 708 - 711.

article by: Prof J du P Bothma

 

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