African Animals

SITATUNGA – Tragelaphus spekei

SIZE: Shoulder height (m) 0,9 m, (f) 0,8 m; mass (m) 115 kg, (f) 80 kg.

COLOUR: Long-haired, rather shaggy, dark brown or brownish-grey coat, more reddish in the female. White markings include patches on throat, spots on the cheeks, and a chevron between the eyes. Tail dark brown above, white below and has a dark tuft at the tip.

MOST LIKE: The Bushbuck, but larger, with shaggier coat and less distinctive white markings.

HABITAT: Reed or papyrus swamps; islands in lakes or rivers.

They are very difficult to observe as they are normally obscured by reeds. Ever alert to the presence of their natural enemies, leopards and lions, sitatunga will walk silently through the water, placing their feet delicately and carefully in the mud of a reed bed. Surprised, they will splash through the reeds in great bounds, leap into deeper water, and swim away with only their heads above the water. Flooding sometimes forces sitatunga from the swamps onto higher ground where they move about somewhat clumsily on the hard surface.

Although they do venture out onto nearby plains, these antelope invariably stay close to their reed beds, leaving a conspicuous V-shaped spoor on the soft ground. Sitatunga usually move about in herds of up to six animals, feeding mainly on papyrus and aquatic grasses. Single calves, usually born in mid-winter (June/July), may instinctively move to higher ground after birth. They are very uneasy on their feet, and if they make any attempt at escaping from predators, it is by diving into the water.


Sitatunga, renowned for their elongated, pointed hooves, which can be up to 18 cm long on the forefeet, are semi-aquatic, and are more adapted to the aquatic environment than any of the other antelope in the southern African subregion: even the lechwe. Their Afrikaans name, waterkoedoe, is particularly descriptive, as, with their vertical white stripes, they do bear a resemblance to the kudu: the reference to water is self-explanatory.
Sitatunga are powerful swimmers and range easily over soft, swampy surfaces. They are masters of the art of camouflage and sometimes, when they have been wounded by a predator or hunter, will lie up in a dense reed bed, submerging themselves in the water with just their nostrils showing.


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