Waterbuck Fact File
Wild 20 years
Captive 20 years
The waterbuck is a large antelope found across parts of Africa.
They are grazers which feed on a range of grasses with leaves and plants also consumed. Waterbuck need water each day and are not often found far from it. Water is also used to escape predators.
Females will calve year round with a single calf born and left alone for the first three weeks of life with only brief visits from mom to provide milk.
Populations of the waterbuck have been severely depleted by hunting and habitat destruction or alteration.
Learn more about these amazing antelopes by reading on below.
Across the body the waterbuck is covered by fur which is primarily colored grey to red brown. This coat darkens as the individual ages. Their are white markings around the rump, throat and muzzle with a white stripe across the eye resembling an eyebrow. The lower leg is black with a white ring sitting above the hoof.
A mane is present on the neck and across the body their hair is coarse.
The fur is covered by a smelly, oily secretion. This is thought to provide waterproofing for their skin.
Males sport a large pair of horns which have prominent rings along their length. These reach up to 1m (3.25ft) tall. The horns grow a small amount throughout their life. They curve back slightly before going upwards. Females lack horns.
An average adult waterbuck measures 1.3-2.4m (4.25-7.25ft) long with an average weight of 160-300kg (352.75-661.5lbs). At the shoulder waterbucks will stand 1.2m (4ft)tall.
Waterbuck are among the heaviest species of antelope.
At the end of the body is a tail measuring 10-45cm (4-18in) long.
Waterbuck are herbivores which graze for a variety of grasses. Reeds and leaves may also be consumed by them.
These antelope require water every day and water is always found in their habitat.
Africa is the native home of the waterbuck. Here they can be found along the east coast and across to the western areas of northern Africa. Their range covers the following countries – Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; The Democratic Republic of the Congo; Côte d’Ivoire; Eritrea; Eswatini; Ethiopia; Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Malawi; Mali; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Zambia and Zimbabwe.
At present the waterbuck is considered to be extinct in Gambia though occasional vagrants enter the country from Senegal.
Waterbucks live in savanna woodland, forest, savanna moasics and shrubland. They are often found near water though they are not as aquatic as the related waterbuck.
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Calving can occur year round but there is a noticeable peak during summer.
Females will produce a single calf after a 9 month gestation period. On some occasions twins can be born.
The mother will hide her calf and comes past each day to feed the calf. This sessions last only about 5 minutes. After feeding her calf she will lick it clean so no odor is left to attract predators. Young can get to their feet within half an hour.
After 3 weeks the young leave their hiding spot and begin to move with their mother. She will raise her tail to signal to the young.
Weaning occurs by 8 months old. Adult weight is not reached by the young till 3.5 years old.
Sexual maturity is reached at 12 months old for females and 16 months old for males.
Soon after the female gives birth she will mate again just weeks after giving birth.
As their common name would suggest the waterbuck is not often seen far from water. They may take to the water to escape a predator.
Males waterbuck are almost entirely solitary outside of the breeding season. Females and their young may be solitary or form a loose group with up to ten individuals.
Feeding occurs in the morning and at night. During the rest of the day they will rest and ruminate (digest) their food. In areas with high amounts of human activity they have been observed to become nocturnal.
Waterbucks remain in a similar area throughout the year and do not undertake any migration. They often maintain a territory. The smell of males is so strong that they do not need to mark their territory.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the waterbuck include lions, African wild dogs, crocodiles, cheetah, hyenas and leopards. Predators mainly target calves.
Their waterproof secretions create an unpleasant odor which discourages predators from hunting them.
Waterbuck have suffered from large declines across their range. A large contributor to this has been hunting for both food and sport. Populations in protected areas remain stable but outside of these areas they have seen steep declines.
A further threat is presented by habitat loss or fragmentation from road construction and building of habitats. The building of dams will divert the water they need to
Their population is estimated to include less than 200,000 individuals.
Two subspecies of the waterbuck are recognized. These are the common waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnys ssp. ellipsiprrymnus) and the defassa waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnys ssp. defassa). Where their range overlaps the two may interbreed.
IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. 2016. Kobus ellipsiprymnus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T11035A50189324. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T11035A50189324.en. Downloaded on 21 July 2021.
Knowsley Safari Experience. 2021. Waterbuck. [online] Available at: <https://www.knowsleysafariexperience.co.uk/explore/our-animals/waterbuck/> [Accessed 21 July 2021].
African Wildlife Foundation. 2021. Waterbuck. [online] Available at: <https://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/waterbuck> [Accessed 21 July 2021].
Altina Wildlife Park. 2021. Waterbuck – Altina Wildlife Park. [online] Available at: <http://www.altinawildlife.com/waterbuck/> [Accessed 21 July 2021].
Seaworld.org. 2021. Defassa Waterbuck Facts and Information | SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. [online] Available at: <https://seaworld.org/animals/facts/mammals/defassa-waterbuck/> [Accessed 21 July 2021].
Newell, T. 1999. “Kobus ellipsiprymnus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed July 21, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Kobus_ellipsiprymnus/
Fossilrim.org. 2021. Common Waterbuck – Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. [online] Available at: <https://fossilrim.org/animals/common-waterbuck/> [Accessed 21 July 2021].
Siyabona Africa. 2021. Waterbuck. [online] Available at: <https://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_waterbuck.html> [Accessed 21 July 2021].
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