The Kruger National Park is home to many different species of animals, from Eland to small antelope such as Duiker and Steenbok. Impala are the most common antelope in the park with Kudu being the second most common. If you are lucky, you may see rare antelope such as Sable and Eland which are revered in many African cultures.
A kudu bull displays the longest horns of all the antelope that occur in Kruger. At the age of nine months a male kudu sports two short horns, which begin to grow and curve with age to form the corkscrew shape typical of mature bulls.The record length of 181 centimetres is more than twice that recorded for a close relative, the nyala. There have been several observations of jousting kudu bulls interlocking their spiral horns and being unable to disengage. Unable to disentangle their horns or flee, the helpless contestants soon fall prey to predators.Herds of female waterbuck and their young occupy a home range that coincides with the territories of several males.
Relative to their small population size, more waterbuck are killed by Lion than any other antelope in Kruger, and 60 to 80 per cent of deaths can be attributed to these predators. Waterbuck are uncommon throughout their range in South Africa and currently number a modest 1 400 in Kruger. They favour open woodland near water. Of the 77 species of African antelope, only the waterbuck has a distinctive white ring around the rump. Grasses of a high nutritional quality and a regular supply of water are both essential habitat requirements for these animals. Cattle egrets, the only members of their family that are not closely dependent on water, feed on grasshoppers and other insects disturbed by large antelope.The regal sable, arguably the most beautiful antelope in the Park, has specific habitat requirements that include tall grassland and open woodland.An increase in zebra herds and prolonged drought has caused a considerable decline in sable in recent years. Blue wildebeest favour short grasses and need to drink less than other grazers such as zebra and buffalo. Although wildebeest are dependent on water, the severe drought of 1992/93 had little effect on their population, currently estimated at about 13 000.A blue wildebeest bull maintains his dominance by means of ritual displays intended to intimidate any intruder. When another bull approaches, the territorial bull's rocking-horse gait and swishing tail are meant to dissuade his competitor.If this display fails, the bull drops to his knees and engages in horn-clashing sparring (opposite below). No injuries result from these contests as the impact is absorbed by the bull's solid horn bosses. One of the bulls eventually surrenders and is chased off the territory by the victor. Males are territorial and even where herds migrate over long distances, temporary territories are established.In the Kruger Park bushbuck are associated with dense riverine bush, and the road between Skukuza and Lower Sabie offers the best sightings. They are solitary antelope and occupy home ranges that often overlap. Unlike most antelope species, bushbuck are exceptionally tolerant of each other and territorial displays are a rare phenomenon.The smallest of the antelope most commonly seen in Kruger, steenbok show a marked preference for the open plains in the eastern region of the Park, formed on volcanic basalt. There is some sexual dimorphism, with only male steenbok having horns, and the females being slightly larger than the males.A nyala male displays the stripes and horn shape typical of this antelope family. Nyala occur mainly north of the Letaba River, especially along the Shingwedzi and Luvuvhu rivers. Only males have horns. Females are a reddish ochre in colour and can be confused with young kudu.The roan antelope is classified as an endangered species in South Africa. Following the harsh drought of 1992/93, roan antelope nearly became extinct in the Park, and the population fell from 452 in 1986 to 44. Kruger mostly contains habitats that are marginal to their requirements, as roan survive better on wetter savannas. They occur only in open woodland with a well-developed cover of tall grass.By Nigel Dennis & Michael Brett.