Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Both the bontebok and blesbok are grazing antelopes that spend their day feeding on short grass. They are less active during the hotter midday hours and routinely stand in groups facing the sun, frequently nodding their lowered heads (4). Bontebok adult males defend territories all year round (5), marking them with dung and urine (2), and chasing away any intruding males from large bachelor herds of young males that roam at will (5). Small nursery herds of two to eight females and their young commonly remain with the same territorial male all year round, which is an interesting feature of bontebok territoriality (6). The territorial males encourage any passing females to stay by carrying out a special sexual display (5). Blesboks have a similar social structure to the bontebok, with a few noticeable differences. Nursery herds are generally larger, consisting of up to 25 females (2), and adult males do not maintain their territories during winter and spring. During this cold, dry season very large mixed-age groups of up to 650 animals may be formed. In order to conserve energy during this period of scarce food, there is little activity of any kind (5). Bonteboks mate between January and March (5), with lambs being born from September to October (4), while blesbok mating peaks in April (2), and most lambs are born from November to January (4). Both subspecies have an eight month gestation period and their young are up and mobile within an hour or two of birth. Females mature in about two years and can live for up to 17 years (2)
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Description

There are two very distinct subspecies of this handsome African antelope, the bontebok (D. p. pygargus) and the blesbok (D. p. phillipsi), both of which are extinct as wild animals and owe their survival to their existence in National Parks, game reserves, and on farms. Their body is compact with a short neck and long narrow face (2), and both sexes carry simple, lyre-shaped horns, although the female's are more slender (4). The beautiful bontebok, perhaps the rarest antelope in southern Africa (5), has a rich brown coat with a purplish gloss, and a distinctive white face, white buttocks, white belly and white 'socks' (2). The white facial blaze is usually unbroken which distinguishes it from the blesbok, whose white blaze is normally broken by a brown band between the eyes (4). The blesbok also differs by having a dull reddish-brown coat, which lacks the purple gloss, with lighter brown buttocks and off-white lower legs (2).
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Distribution

Range Description

The Bontebok was historically confined to the coastal plain (60-200 m) of the Western Cape, South Africa, where overhunting reduced it from locally abundant to the verge of extinction. It was saved from extinction in the mid-19th century by a few Cape farming families who protected the small remnant populations. From a low of less than 20 animals in the original Bontebok National Park (established near Bredasdorp in 1931), the population of this antelope has gradually recovered. The population of Bontebok National Park had reached 84 when the animals were translocated to the more suitable site of the current Bontebok National Park near Swellendam in 1960, and increased to a population of 320 in 1981. The park’s Bontebok population has subsequently been maintained at around 250. Surplus animals removed from this national park have formed the nucleus of reintroduced populations in other protected areas such as provincial and local authority nature reserves. Extralimital populations have been established in West Coast National Park and at least two local authority reserves. Bontebok populations have also been established on private farms both within its natural range and elsewhere, e.g., in Eastern Cape and Free State provinces (East 1999).

The Blesbok’s historical distribution included the highveld of Free State and Gauteng provinces, parts of western and north-western KwaZulu-Natal, and the northern Karoo in the Eastern and Northern Cape, South Africa. It was separated by more than 300 km from the Bontebok’s historical range. Although the Blesbok occurred in enormous populations in regions such as the highveld when the South African hinterland was first explored by Europeans, excessive hunting had reduced its numbers to about 2,000 by the late 19th century. Since then it has made a spectacular recovery, mainly on private farmland, and it has been translocated to many parts of the country both within and outside its natural range. The largest numbers occur on private farms in Gauteng, Free State and Northern Cape. Smaller numbers occur in numerous provincial reserves, with the largest populations in areas such as Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve in Gauteng and Tussen-die-Riviere Game Farm, Willem Pretorius Game Reserve and Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve in Free State (East 1999).

The Blesbok was formerly present in western Lesotho, but exterminated before 1900 (Lynch 1994). There is no reliable historical evidence that Blesbok occurred in Swaziland, but they have been introduced to Malolotja Nature Reserve and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary (Monadjem 1998).

The Blesbok has been introduced widely to privately owned game farms outside its natural range in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe (East 1999).
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Geographic Range

Damaliscus pygargus occurs in southern Africa. There are two physically distinct and well-recognized subspecies: bontebok (D. p. pygargus) are found in the highveld and coastal plains of South Africa, blesbok (D. p. phillipsi) are found in eastern and central South Africa. Bontebok populations are more or less confined to protected areas in South Africa.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

  • Kingdom, J. 1997. The Kingdom Field Guide to African Mammals. San Diego: Academic Press.
  • Mills, G., L. Hes. 1997. The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Capetown: Struik Publishing Group.
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Range

Historically, the bontebok was restricted to the coastal plain of the southwestern Cape, South Africa (1), between Bot River (near Hermanus) in the west and Mossel Bay in the east (6), but it is now restricted to the Bontebok National Park and a few reserves and private farms within that same area. The largest single population occurs in De Hoop Nature Reserve near Bredasdorp (4). Formerly, the blesbok occurred on the highveld of South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho (1), but due to hunting they were exterminated from Swaziland and Lesotho before 1900, and by the late 19th century, populations in South Africa were also reduced (5). Since then, numbers have recovered on farms and game reserves and they have been introduced to areas far beyond their natural range, (Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe) (1), but they are only found on enclosed land (4).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Bontesbok and blesbok share an adult color pattern where the relatively dark dorsal pelage contrasts sharply with high, white stockings and buttocks. Bontebok have a dark and glossy, purplish-brown dorsal pelage, while blesbok dorsal pelage is a dull, reddish-brown. Blesbok also have dark fur on their rumps, while bontebok have a white patch surrounding the tail. Calves are born with lighter brown pelage and dark faces and are identical to the young of topi (Damaliscus lunatus). Both sexes of both subspecies develop large and curving, gazelle-like horns Their short tail is tufted with black fur. Head and body length ranges from 140 to 160 cm, tail length from 30 to 45 cm. Males are typically larger than females, with female body mass ranging from 55 to 70 kg, and male body mass ranging from 65 to 80 kg. Bontebok average 8kg lighter than blesbok, which helps to distinguish the two.

Range mass: 55 to 80 kg.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; ornamentation

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species is highly characteristic of the open plateau grasslands of the southern African highveld (Blesbok), up to 2,000 m asl, and coastal Cape fynbos (Bontebok) (East 1999). Both subspecies are almost exclusively grazers, with a preference for short grass; water is an essential habitat requirement (David and Lloyd in press).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Bontebok and blesbok are found in South African grasslands.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland

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The bontebok inhabits coastal grass plains with fynbos vegetation, whereas the blesbok inhabits open grasslands of southern African highveld (1) (2).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Bontebok and blesbok are herbivores, they graze on grasses and herbage. Blesbok eat primarily red oat grass (Themeda), but also eat grasses in the genera Eragrostis and Chloromelas. Bontebok eat primarily grasses in the genera Bromus and Danthonia, however bontebok also feed on Eragrostis.

(Kingdon 1997)

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
23 (high) years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 23 years (captivity) Observations: One wild born female was about 23 years old when she died in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Bontebok mate in February, while blesbok peak mating occurs in April. Gestation period for both is eight months. Young are born from August to mid-December. Usually a single young is birthed in a high grass area and within 2 hours after birth the young can be mobile. D. pygargus can live up to 17 years.

Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .

Average number of offspring: 1.

Range gestation period: 8 (high) months.

Average gestation period: 8 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

Average birth mass: 6792 g.

Average number of offspring: 1.2.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
707 days.

Parental Investment: altricial ; extended period of juvenile learning

  • Kingdom, J. 1997. The Kingdom Field Guide to African Mammals. San Diego: Academic Press.
  • Mills, G., L. Hes. 1997. The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Capetown: Struik Publishing Group.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Damaliscus pygargus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Damaliscus pygargus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Lloyd, P. & David, J.

Reviewer/s
Mallon, D.P. (Antelope Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern as the species is reasonably abundant in both formal conservation areas and on private land, the population is stable/increasing, and there do not appear to be any major threats to its long-term survival.

History
  • 1996
    Lower Risk/conservation dependent
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
  • 1996
    Lower Risk/conservation dependent
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
  • 1990
    Rare
    (IUCN 1990)
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After their extinction was threatened by excess hunting and the encroachment of agriculture the Bontebok National Park was established in 1931. At that time, only 17 bontebok existed in the wild. Now bontebok are extinct as wild animals and are currently raised on game farms. In recent years, the bontebok population has recovered to 2000+ members living on various reservations throughout South Africa. Blesbok were also seriously threatened by overhunting in the 19th century, reducing very large populations to approximately 2000 individuals. Populations have recovered, however, and now seem stable. Both bontebok (D. p. pygargus) and blesbok (D. p. phillipsi) are considered vulnerable by the IUCN and bontebok are on the CITES Appendix II list.

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: appendix ii; no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Status

Classified as Lower Risk / Conservation Dependent (LR/cd) on the IUCN Red List 2007. Subspecies Damaliscus pygargus pygargus (bontebok) is classified as Vulnerable (VU) and Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi (blesbok) is classified as Least Concern (LC) (1). Subspecies D. p. pygargus is also listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
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Population

Population
East (1999) estimated there to be at least 235,000-240,000 Blesbok (stable or increasing), of which 97% occur on private farms and 3% in protected areas, and at least 2,300 Bontebok (increasing). Current estimates put the numbers of Bontebok at around 3,500; however, based on a 2001 survey, only about 1500 animals actually occur within the native historical range of the subspecies. The largest population is in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, and adjacent Overberg Test Range with some 700 animals (David and Lloyd in press).

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
As a species there do not seem to be any major threats to its long-term survival. While the Bontebok’s numbers are gradually recovering, this subspecies is threatened by hybridization with the much more numerous Blesbok (which has been widely reintroduced, and also introduced outside its former range). Interbreeding has produced numerous hybrids on private land. A photographically based statistical technique is used to differentiate between true Bontebok and Bontebok/Blesbok hybrids for the purpose of identifying registered Bontebok herds (Fabricius et al. 1989).
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Hunting for their meat and skins has bought both these subspecies close to the brink of extinction in the past. Bontebok numbers were severely reduced by the 1830s, but luckily farmers in the Bredasdorp area had the foresight to enclose the remaining wild bontebok on their land, saving this subspecies from extinction (5). Blesbok, which were hunted in their thousands, were also saved by protection on farms and game reserves (5). While hunting and trade of both subspecies still occurs, this is believed to be strictly controlled and so no longer a threat (1). Today, the main threat is hybridisation between the bontebok and blesbok (1), which, while this does not threaten the existence of the species, could result in the loss of these distinct and unique subspecies.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The Bontebok (D. p. pygargus) is listed in the CITES Appendix II. However, strict control of trade means that existing trade does not seem to be adversely affecting the population, which is still exhibiting overall growth (Friedmann and Daly 2004).

The economic value and popularity of the Blesbok on private farms has enabled this subspecies to re-occupy large areas of its original range; substantial extralimital populations of the Blesbok have also been established on private land outside its natural range in South Africa and elsewhere. The survival of the Bontebok is more dependent on protected areas, especially Bontebok National Park and the De Hoop Nature Reserve, although they also occur on private property both within and outside their former range.
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Conservation

While the bontebok and blesbok sadly no longer roam wild in South Africa, the species' survival is now much more secure (2), although somewhat dependent on the continued existence of the farms and game reserves on which they occur. Both subspecies also occur in protected areas (1); one of which was created in 1931 to protect the last 30 bontebok left in the wild, the Bontebok National Park, South Africa (7).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Blesbok are important as a stock animal. Both blesbok and bontebok are important game animals and provide opportunities for tourism in South Africa.

Positive Impacts: food

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Wikipedia

Bontebok

The bontebok is an antelope found in South Africa and Lesotho. The bontebok has two subspecies; the endangered bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygarus),[2] occurring naturally in the Fynbos and Renosterveld areas of the Western Cape, and the blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) occurring in the highveld.

Bontebok head

The bontebok is a tall, medium-sized antelope. They typically stand 80 to 100 cm (31 to 39 in) high at the shoulder and measure 120 to 210 cm (47 to 83 in) along the head and body. The tail can range from 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 in). Body mass can vary from 50 to 155 kg (110 to 340 lb). Males are slightly larger and noticeably heavier than females.[3] The bontebok is a chocolate brown colour, with a white underside and a white stripe from the forehead to the tip of the nose, although there is a brown stripe across the white near the eyes in most blesbok. The bontebok also has a distinctive white patch around its tail (whence the Latin name), while this patch is light brown/tan in blesbok. The horns of bontebok are lyre-shaped and clearly ringed. They are found in both sexes and can reach a length of half a metre.

Blesbok live in highveld, where they eat short grasses, while bontebok are restricted to coastal Fynbos and Renosterveld.[4] They are diurnal, though they rest during the heat of the day. Herds contain only males, only females, or are mixed, and do not exceed 40 animals for bonteboks or 70 for blesboks.

Bontebok are not good jumpers, but they are very good at crawling under things. Mature males form territories and face down other males in displays and occasionally combat.

Bontebok were once extensively killed as pests, and were reduced to a wild population of just 17 animals, but the species has since recovered. Blesbok are extinct in their natural habitat, but they have increased in population to the point where they are now very abundant and avidly farmed, because they are popular quarry for hunters and are easy to sustain.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lloyd, P. & David, J. (2008). Damaliscus pygargus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 5 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
  2. ^ Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  3. ^ Burnie D and Wilson DE (Eds.), Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. DK Adult (2005), ISBN 0789477645
  4. ^ (Skead, 1980)
  • SKEAD, C.J. 1980. Historical mammal incidence in the Cape Province Volume 1. The Department of Nature and Environmental Conservation of the Provincial Administration of the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town.
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