Written by: Georgina Lockwood
Here are six antelope species you can expect to see on safari in Liuwa:
Roan – a rare blonde beauty
FUN FACT: Roan mark their territories by digging holes.
Roan antelope are one of the most endangered antelope in Africa. Their colour varies from strawberry blonde to sandy blonde depending on the subspecies. The subspecies in Liuwa is the Angolan roan antelope which has a more reddish hue. Poaching and habitat encroachment are one of the greatest threats to this antelope. To add to their pile of woes – they do not adapt well to changes in their environment and are extremely sensitive to grass changes. They are also very territorial and anti-social, preferring not to be in the presence of other animals. This is the second largest antelope in Africa, after the eland.
Livingstone eland – the big boy
FUN FACT: elands are natural tap dancers, making a ‘clicking’ sound when they walk.
The eland is the largest antelope in Africa. This particular subspecies of eland was named after Dr David Livingstone – the famous explorer. Eland are not water dependent and are diurnal. The eland is a browser – using its large horns to break branches as it goes. They are exceptionally gregarious and live in massive nomadic herds that migrate thousands of kilometres. The eland may make clicking noises but the little oribi whistles while it runs…
Oribi – they are monogamous
FUN FACT: Oribi have six different glands on their legs, feet, knees and ears.
Oribis are selective feeders taking time to pick out the tastiest and most nutritious part of plants. They are delicate little creatures that live in families of two or three. They are very attached to their territory which the male will mark with small dung heaps, like a rhino. They prefer grassland with just enough grass to hide in but that isn’t too tall. If they are disturbed they will make a whistling sound as they run and leap to make themselves look bigger and scarier. Like the tsessebe, the oribi is a very curious creature.
Tsessebe – fond of hair-doos
FUN FACT: The fastest guy on the plains.
The tsessbe loves open spaces, lush grasses and warm weather which makes Liuwa Plain its ideal home. After the rains they horn the ground to pile mud on their horns, making themselves more intimidating. Breeding bulls like to make their presence felt by standing on ant hills for a better view, however when they do fight they prefer to fight on both knees so as to avoid serious injury. They are so inquisitive that they have been know to stop and look at whatever is scaring them, to their detriment.
Sitatunga – a lover of water
FUN FACT: Sitatunga like to sleep on floating papyrus beds.
The Zambezi sitatunga is adapted for life in a bog – loving all things wet, marshy and humid from rain forests to mangroves and riverine thickets. The sitatunga’s dark brown hue and white stripes help this antelope to stay camouflaged in thick vegetation. The sitatunga is the only bovid that is able to stay in water permanently. These elusive forest creatures have been seen on the edge of Liuwa Plain. They are extremely shy and hide most of the day. In Zambia they are known to enjoy hanging out with lechwe, the next buck on the list.
Red lechwe – a grass quality indicator
FUN FACT: The red lechwe is one of five subspecies of lechwe.
The lechwe is a semi-aquatic antelope that flourishes in the floodplains like the Okavango and Liuwa, grazing knee-deep in water on fresh shoots and leaves. Lechwe are strong swimmers and will often out swim predators to get away and can easily bound through water. Their hooves are splayed, allowing them to navigate through mushy terrain fast due to a greater surface area. Lechwe are a good indicator of the quality of grazing – the more happy healthy lechwe there are, the better the grazing. When the quality of grazing decreases the sick and elderly antelope die or get taken out by the likes of Lady Liuwa – the famous lioness of Liuwa.
So, what’s your favourite antelope?
Read about Liuwa Plain National Park in: Living Wild in Liuwa