What are the different kinds of antelopes that live in Rwanda?
There are an astounding number of separate antelope species found here! These remarkable creatures are very different from each other, each one being uniquely adapted to its specific habitat.
In this article, you’ll find interesting facts, photos, and even range maps so you can learn all about these incredible animals!
9 Antelopes Found in Rwanda:
- Aepyceros melampus
- Adults are 70–92 cm (28–36 in) tall at the shoulder.
- Males have thin, ridged, s-shaped horns that are 45–92 cm (18–36 in) tall.
- They have reddish-brown hair on the upper parts of their bodies, and the undersides of their bellies, chins, lips, inside ears, the line over the eye, and tails are white.
Look for these well-known antelopes in the grasslands and savannas of Rwanda.
While Impala are predominantly grazers, especially when the grass is lush and abundant, they switch to shrubs, trees, and other plants as needed. They’re ruminants, meaning that they have multi-chambered stomachs and regurgitate and chew their food, called cud, multiple times to get the most nutrients possible.
Impalas share their grassland and woodland habitats with many large, capable predators, so they have to stay alert and ready to make a quick escape! When they sense danger, Impalas leap in a random direction and then run quickly to startle their enemies.
They’re incredibly athletic and may jump up to 3.5 m (10 ft) in the air! To avoid being grabbed, Impalas often kick their back feet up as they land on just their front legs.
Calves are the most susceptible to predation, harsh weather conditions, and illness. Thankfully female Impalas have some incredible strategies to care for their young. For example, they’re able to delay giving birth for up to one month if weather conditions are harsh. They also typically give birth around mid-day when most predators are sleeping.
#2. Southern Bushbuck
- Tragelaphus sylvaticus
- Adults average about 90 cm (35 in) at the shoulder.
- They are light brown with up to 7 white stripes on their backs, white splotches on their sides, and often some white on their ears, chins, tails, legs, necks, and muzzles.
- Males have horns with a single twist up to 0.5 m (1.64 ft) long.
Bushbucks are one of the least social antelopes in Rwanda. Unlike many of their relatives that move about in herds, Southern Bushbucks are solitary animals. However, they aren’t aggressive towards each other and will sometimes forage in close proximity.
While they are herbivores, Bushbucks rarely eat grasses. Instead, they feed on tree leaves, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. They live in a wide range of habitats, including woodlands, montane forests, rainforests, and savannas. Each individual has a home area, and they rarely leave it.
Bushbucks only come together to mate and then go their separate ways. Females hide their young and go to great lengths to keep them hidden. When they visit their calves, they go so far as to eat their dung to keep the scent from attracting predators.
- Kobus ellipsiprymnus
- Adults are 120-136 cm (47-54 in) tall at the shoulder.
- They have shaggy brown-gray coats, large rounded ears, and white patches above the eyes, on the throat, and around the nose and mouth.
- Males have prominently ringed horns that curve back and up and may reach 55–99 cm (22–39 in) long.
The Waterbuck’s appearance may vary throughout its range. There are 13 recognized subspecies, all with slightly different traits! In general, all waterbucks keep their glossy coats with a unique oily secretion. It makes them smell a bit funny to humans, but the scent helps them to find a mate! The oil secretion also serves to help keep their coat waterproof.
These robust antelopes live in grasslands in Rwanda and are almost always found near water, as their name suggests. Compared to some more migratory antelope species, Waterbucks tend to be rather sedentary, remaining in valleys with rivers and lakes. This is because their diet depends on access to fresh water along with the protein-rich medium and short grasses that grow in moist areas.
Waterbucks are social animals and usually live in herds of up to 30 individuals. Typically, bachelor males form herds together, and females form separate herds comprised of only females and their young.
Once born, mothers leave their calf hidden in the thicket and only visit to nurse. This helps prevent predators from smelling or finding the calf, though mortality is still quite high.
#4. Common Eland
- Tragelaphus oryx
- Adults are 1.4-1.6 m (4.5-5 ft) tall at the shoulder, and females are usually much smaller than males.
- They are a uniform fawn color with some vertical white striping on their upper parts.
- Both sexes have long dewlaps, short manes, and corkscrew horns that are 43–66 cm (17–26 in) long.
Elands are the largest antelope in Rwanda.
But they also hold the title as the slowest antelope, only running at speeds up to 32 kph (20 mph). However, they can jump nearly 1 m (3 ft) into the air. They are one of the world’s most adaptable ruminants and can survive in deserts, grasslands, and mountainous areas.
These unique antelopes have another feature that sets them apart: a weird sound that lets you know they’re near. When walking, the tendons and joints in their front legs produce sharp clicking sounds that can be heard from a distance. Scientists believe that these sounds may help an Eland advertise their territory.
Elands are generally social creatures and may form large herds of up to 500 individuals. Typically these larger herds are mostly females and their young, while males tend to roam by themselves or in small groups. Males often fight for mates, and females tend to select the most dominant males to breed with.
- Oreotragus oreotragus
- Adults are 43–60 cm (17–24 in) tall at the shoulder.
- Adults are stocky with short necks and bodies, large hindquarters, large rounded ears, and sometimes short, straight horns.
- Their coats may be yellow and speckled with brown, bright golden-yellow, or gray and dull, with each individual hair being light at the base and dark towards the tip.
Look for Klipspringers in the arid, rocky hills of Rwanda.
To make life in these rocky regions a bit easier, Klipspringers have specially adapted feet. The last joints of their toes are rotated so that they walk on the tips of their hooves. The rocks wear the hooves down into cylindrical shapes well-suited for balancing on the rocks.
These unique little antelopes are also monogamous to a greater extent than most other antelopes. A pair will mark and defend a territory together, with males performing dominance displays and butting heads. Females are a bit aggressive too, and may bite and rip out each other’s fur.
Klipspringers are usually most active in the morning and evening. One of the pair, usually the male, will stand guard while the other feeds. They are preyed on by many large predators and have to remain constantly alert.
#6. Bush Duiker
- Sylvicapra grimmia
- Adults grow up to 50 cm (20 in) tall.
- They vary in color and may be chestnut, grizzled gray, or light brown, with an erect tuft of hair on the top of their head.
- Males have small, spike-like horns up to 11 cm (4.3 in) long with grooves at the base.
Bush Duikers are the smallest antelopes in Rwanda!
These little animals will adapt to various habitats and live in woodlands, savannas, grasslands, and mountainous areas. They inhabit higher altitudes than any other African ungulate. To help live in these inhospitable conditions, they consume insects and have occasionally been observed stalking and eating birds, rodents, lizards, and frogs.
Bush Duikers are territorial and form monogamous pairs. Both sexes will use threat displays to drive other Duikers of the same sex out of their territory. If these displays fail, battles may ensue! Females will head-butt other females, and males may fight, chase, and stab each other with their horns.
The lifespan of Bush Duikers in the wild is unknown, but they have lived up to 14 years in captivity. This species is listed as one of least concern on the IUCN Red List.
- Damaliscus lunatus
- Adults are 100 to 130 cm (39 to 51 in) at the shoulder.
- They have glossy, tan coats with grayish or bluish-black markings on their upper legs, black faces and tail tufts, and light undersides.
- Both sexes have ringed, s-shaped horns, but they are typically slightly larger in males. They range in size from 37-40 cm (15-16 in) long.
Tsessebes are one of the most territorial antelope species in Rwanda.
Their territories are taken seriously by other Tsessebe herds, to the point that traveling herds will go to great lengths to avoid them. They will move around the outskirts of another herd’s territory, occasionally risking entering neutral areas with lions and other predators!
Tsessebe Range Map
The map above shows the ranges of the different Tsessebe subspecies.
All of the Tsessebes’ territories have high vantage points, which allow females to alert others of danger and males to display their territory. They prefer grassland habitats, including open plains and lightly wooded savannas. As their habitat suggests, they feed primarily on grass.
During the rainy season, when the grass is fresh and wet, they get all their water needs from their food, but during dry periods, they need fresh water every day or two. Tsessebes are most active in the morning and evening and spend the hotter parts of the day watering, resting, and digesting their food.
#8. Roan Antelope
- Hippotragus equinus
- Adults are 130–140 cm (51–55 in) at the shoulder.
- They are reddish-brown with lighter undersides, black faces, and white eyebrows, cheeks, and around the nose.
- They have short erect manes, light beards, and red nostrils, and both sexes have ringed horns that sweep backward.
Roan Antelopes are one of the largest in Rwanda!
Look for these large ruminants in lightly wooded savanna with medium or tall grass and access to water. They feed in the morning and evening and retreat to shaded areas in the middle of the day, so you’ll need to rise early to observe them.
Unlike many antelopes, healthy adult Roan Antelopes are formidable opponents to most predators. They don’t flee like many animals. Instead, they face down even the most fearsome predators, like lions. They’re known to gore attacking lions with their long, scimitar-like horns.
These fierce antelopes don’t travel alone either, instead living in mixed herds of about 20 animals, including females, young, and one dominant bull. Less dominant bachelor males tend to form their own groups. Being a herd animal is one more way these antelope discourage attacks.
Roan Antelopes are currently listed as lower risk but conservation dependent by the IUCN. Their populations have rapidly declined in recent years due to hunting and poaching, habitat deterioration and loss, and slaughter as part of tsetse fly control efforts.
- Tragelaphus spekii
- Adult males are 81–116 cm (32–46 in) tall at the shoulder, while females reach 72–90 cm (28–35 in) tall.
- Males are chocolate to gray-brown and have spiral-shaped horns that are 45–92 cm (18–36 in) long.
- Females are brown to bright chestnut.
- They have long coats and white markings on the face, ears, body, legs, and feet.
These antelopes have an unusual habitat in Rwanda – swampland!
Sitatunga have a few special adaptations that allow them to walk on boggy, marshy ground easily. Their feet are elongated with a wide splay and pad-like pattern. They also have unique flexibility in their foot joints, which helps keep them from getting stuck in the mud.
Sitatungas avoid areas of open water, instead preferring tall, dense vegetation like seasonal swamps, mangroves, and thickets. These habitats provide shelter from predators as well as the Sitatunga’s two favorite foods, papyrus and reed shoots. Oddly, when food is scarce, these antelope will eat elephant dung, which often has undigested seeds!
This species’ social structure varies. You may spot them on their own, in male and female pairs, in bachelor male groups of three or four, or in family groups of up to 15 animals, including females, young, and a dominant bull.
Check out these other guides about animals found in Rwanda!
Which of these antelopes have you seen before in Rwanda?
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