Springbok at the edge of the Namib desert

Activities at Onjala Lodge
March 4, 2013
Namibia: Why hunt if you can take a photo?
March 6, 2013
Activities at Onjala Lodge
March 4, 2013
Namibia: Why hunt if you can take a photo?
March 6, 2013

Main post image of Springbok by Dirk de Bod. 

Imagine a pristine landscape, wide and empty as can be, a landscape that dissolves into the blue contours of distant horizons, sometimes interrupted by rugged mountain ranges, sometimes vanishing into a vast nothingness.

The vegetation in this land is characterised by sparse yellow grass and low-spreading shrubs sending their branches out across the earth, while in the larger areas, bare, debris-scattered desert gravel and sands are prominent. An occasional gnarled tree adds to the picturesque scenario of the expanding lowlands.

This is a description of the NamibRand Nature Reserve in south-western Namibia. In the midday heat, the shimmering air washes over the plains, distorting the outlines of scattered animals: an ostrich, a small group of gemsbok, a flock of delicate springbok.

An endless sky envelops the scene under its star-studded dome. Later, when the almost motionless animals that have stoically endured the searing heat of the day start to feed, an ineffable calm spreads throughout the land.

NamibRand Namibia. Photo: Paul van Schalkwyk www.tala.com.na

NamibRand Namibia. Photo: Paul van Schalkwyk www.tala.com.na

The first light showers transform this semi-desert landscape. A few days after the eagerly awaited drops have fallen, the iridescent green of the delicate fresh grass shoots attracts springbok from all over.

Miraculously there are signs of life everywhere, and graceful denizens of the desert gravitate towards the area where, after the prolonged drought, the scent of the fresh green shoots and the damp desert earth have become an irresistible temptation.

They are springbok, Southern Africa’s unique antelope that the early adventurers and hunters penetrating the interior of South Africa referred to as trekbokke, Afrikaans for migratory antelope.

The springbok is a species that does not necessarily stand out among the amazing manifold of African antelopes and gazelles, although it is exceptionally beautiful in shape and colour. Nevertheless, in its natural habitat, a certain halo of tranquillity surrounds it.

Springbok rams.

Springbok rams. Photo: Paul van Schalkwyk. www.tala.com.na

The scientific name of the species, Antidorcas marsupialis, refers to a very special feature of the springbok, namely the marsupium, a fold in the skin down its back, which is normally visible only as a narrow line of white hair that extends from the middle down to its tail.

When agitated, the fold opens into a wide trough of long white hair, a signal to conspecifics that is noticeable from afar. In this state, the buoyant animal will perform the distinctive series of high jumps that gave rise to its name.

Springbok prefer the wide-open landscapes of the dryer south-western area of Africa. They occur in groups of some 50 animals that lead nomadic lives, due to the fluctuating occurrence of food in their arid habitat. Sudden favourable conditions initiate the merging of huge herds of thousands of individuals.

A springok pronking. Photo: Dirk de Bod

A springok pronking. Photo: Dirk de Bod

Mass migrations of hundreds of thousands of animals heading for better pastures have been observed in times long past. However, even today, migrations of thousands of springbok can be witnessed in Namibia’s NamibRand and Kalahari regions.

During the mating season, springbok rams infiltrate and defend territories that are sought out and frequented by females in their daily search for food. The territorial ram will then try to keep the ewe in his territory for as long as possible; where at this time he produces a loud roar that ends in short bleat.

This article contains extracts from an article written by Kai-Uwe Denker for a 2013 Venture Publications print magazine. 

Antidorcas marsupialis

Shoulder height: 74–85 cm
Weight: ♂ 33–55 kg, ♀ 30–43 kg
Life span: 12 years
NutritionMixed:  herbs, foliage, grass
Mating season: April–June
Gestation: 5½ month, 1 calf
Features: Ram: larger, heavy, thick neck. Member clearly visible. Horns longer and thicker.
Ewe:  trim, slender neck, very thin horns

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