Sitatunga, Marshbuck [Tragelaphus spekii sp]
Head and body length of a Sitatunga ram measures 1.5 to 1.7 m, with a tail of 200 to 250 mm. Rams weigh 80-125 kg. Ewes are smaller, head and body length measures 1.3 to 1.6 m. The tail is the same length as the male. Female weighs 50-60 kg. Only males carry shallow-spiraled and keeled horns. The average horn length is 600 mm. The world record is 924 mm. The coat is shaggy and coarse-haired, males normally a drab dark brown in colour with no body stripes. The pelage of ewes is a dark to reddish-brown with a black band running down the center of the back, and with pale vertical stripes on the sides, as well as lateral white bands and spots on the haunches.
Both sexes have a white band between the eyes, and white spots on the cheeks. They also have two distinct white patches on the body, one above the chest and one on the throat, below the chin. The tail is black tipped, brown above and white below. Another characteristic feature of Sitatunga, is the much elongated and splayed hooves and enlarged false hooves, covered with a swollen leathery pad. This is an obvious adaptation to the soft, muddy substrate of its habitat.
Feeding preference is for freshly sprouted reed tips, but will also take aquatic grasses such as Eragrotis inamoena.
Can breed throughout the year although a weak breeding peak is noticeable. Has a gestation period of 220 days. In Southern Africa most calves are born from June to August. Calves lie up on trampled reed platforms or in dense undergrowth for several weeks. The home range of the Sitatunga is generally very small and this is mainly due to the prolific and permanent food supply available.
Extremely specific in their habitat. They are only found in dense and extensive reedbeds of Papyrus, Phragmites and Typha. Because of the dense nature of ideal habitats, and even with high sitatunga densities, observations are understandably rare and intermitted. One is extremely lucky to even get a glimpse of this species.
Where they are found
Related to the Kudu, Bushbuck and Nyala. The distribution in South Africa is restricted to its preferred habitat of swamps and marshes along the Okavango River 'panhandle'. Their existence is increasingly threatened by habitat destruction and hunting. Apart from small numbers occurring in marginal reedbeds along sectors of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers, a separate population also occurs in the Linyanti swamps. Three subspecies are recognised in Africa of which T.s. selousi occurs in central and southern Africa, T.s. spekei in East Africa and T.s. gratus in West Africa.