The Red Lechwe (Kobus leche) is a heavily built antelope that is notable for its splayed, elongated hooves (which are generally hidden from view in water, mud, or grass). The eyes are widely spaced and the male has long horns that sweep back and are heavily annulated (i.e., with conspicuous ring-like divisions).
Red Lechwe are found in scattered locations in eastern Angola, eastern Namibia, northern Botswana, and western Zambia. They inhabit seasonal floodplains and shallow swamps adjacent to open water. The interface between inundated and dry grasslands is the most heavily used habitat. They tend to avoid woodlands and are rarely found in water deeper than 50 cm. They can move efficiently through flooded terrain using a bounding gait whereby all four feet touch the ground and leave the ground together. On hard ground, they are slow and clumsy. Lechwes are closely tied to swampy floodplains by their physiology and soft hooves. When water levels are low, predation by Lions (Panthera leo) and African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) increases.
Kobus leche was long treated as a single species including as subspecies K. l. leche, K. l. kafuensis, and K. l. smithemani, but these taxa were treated by Cotterill (2005) and Huffman (2011) as full species, along with the closely related and newly recognized K. anselli.
Throughout much of the range of this species, populations have been decimated by unsustainable hunting, but they tend to do well in protected areas. Around 98,000 individuals are believed to exist in the wild, around 85% of them in the Okavango Delta of Botswana.
(Kingdon 1997; Cotterill 2005; Huffman 2011)
- Cotterill, F.P.D. 2005. The Upemba lechwe, Kobus anselli: an antelope new to science emphasizes the conservation importance of Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo. Journal of Zoology 265: 113-132.
- Huffman, B.A. 2011. Red Lechwe (Kobus leche). P. 671 in: Wilson, D.E. and Mittermeier, R.A., eds. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 2. Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Kingon, J. 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego.
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