Waterbuck Baby Makes His Debut
Recently we have watched small groups of Waterbucks on both the Elephant Plains and Tembe cams. Immediately identifiable by the circle of white on their rumps, they are in fact a quite interesting species of antelope. At shoulder height the male waterbuck can stand as tall as 1.4 metres (a little over 4 ½ ft) and can weigh up to 260 Kg (572lbs). Watching from the cameras it is often hard to realize the size and stature of this large animal.
The coat of a waterbuck is a lush mahogany color and deepens with age. A small patch of white under his neck and rounded ears help make him identifiable even when walking through tall grass. While his name makes us think he is a water lover, it in fact alludes to the fact that they need to be near water, drinking more water on a daily basis than any other antelope, as well as using water as a last resort to flee from predators. The Ellipsen (ellipse/closed curve/circle) or Common Waterbuck is the type we see walk through the grass in front of the cameras, one of two subspecies found in Africa, the only continent they are native to.
Natural enemies of the Waterbuck include the ever continuous loss of habitat and fragmentation of what is left, along with predation of the calves by leopards, hyenas and crocodiles. Lions tend to avoid them, perhaps because of the oily secretions that coat the fur. My thoughts? Leopards tend to take the fur off before they eat the prey, much like feathers are plucked off a bird before eating, perhaps getting rid of that offensive taste and smell in the hair of the waterbuck. The lions just devour the prey so maybe the taste of the oily fur is something they avoid unless it’s the only prey available. Hyenas and crocodiles...well, they’ll eat anything that isn’t nailed down, so taste doesn’t seem to play much of a role in their choice of dinner. But back to the facts...This secretion is thought to waterproof the hair, and has a very pungent musky smell that lingers behind in the areas they rest at. There are thoughts that the scent allows them to find each other more easily, but unfortunately tells the predators that a meal is close by.
We see impala babies each year, many of them in fact, and while we tend to “ooo” and “aww” as they show up in the herd, when a new waterbuck is born we find ourselves getting caught up in the miracle of life even more. This little one (in the video link below) was recently born and allowed us a view that perhaps we won’t see again for awhile. With proud Mama by its side, this little one will grow and get stronger...and hopefully Mama will bring him out to the camera once in awhile so we can be a part of his progress. An exact replica of his Mama, the little face is inquisitive, full of wonder and pure innocence. Enjoy these intimate moments, and yes, the little one already has that white ring of fur on his rump!