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Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus)



Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus)
Order: Artiodactyla, Family: Bovidae

Roan antelope occur from south Sahara to Botswana. Two subspecies, H. equinus kobc and H. equinus bokeri, occupy the northern savannah of Africa from Chad to Ethiopia. Two other subspecies, H. equinus equines and H. equinus cottoni, are located in the southern savannah of Africa in south and central Africa.



I. GEOGRAPHIC RANGE
  • Roan antelope occur from south Sahara to Botswana.
  • Two subspecies, H. equinus kobc and H. equinus bokeri, occupy the northern savannah of Africa from Chad to Ethiopia.
  • Two other subspecies, H. equinus equines and H. equinus cottoni, are located in the southern savannah of Africa in south and central Africa.
II. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
  • Mass: 225 to 300 kg.
  • Roan antelope are the second largest antelope species. Males are larger and built more sturdily than females. Males weigh from 260-300 kg and are from 150-160 cm high at the shoulder. Females weigh from 225-275 kg and range from 140-160 cm in shoulder height.
  • Their pelage, or coat, is grayish-brown with a hint of red. The legs are darker than the rest of the body. Young roan antelope are much lighter and reddish-brown. The head is dark brown or black, with white around the mouth and nose, large white patches in front of the eyes and pale patches behind them. Their ears are long and narrow, with dark brown hair at the tips. Roan antelope have a mane consisting of short stiff hair that is black at the tips. The tail has a brush of black hair at the tip.
  • Horns in both sexes rise from the top of the head and sweep backwards in an even curve. They are ridged almost to the tips and often described as scimitar-shaped. Males have longer, thicker horns than females.
  • Females have two pairs of teats between their hind legs. In males, the penis sheath is clearly visible.
III. FOOD HABITS
  • Roan antelope are grazers that prefer leaves over stems. They will browse if grazing forage is poor. The preferred feeding height is 15-150 cm and green shoots are often grazed down to a height of 2 cm.
  • Roan antelope feed in the morning and evening hours and retreat to more densely wooded areas during the middle of the day.
IV. REPRODUCTION
  • Roan antelope do not seem to have a distinct breeding season. Females go into estrus 2 to 3 weeks after giving birth and seem to be capable of having young every 10 to 10.5 months.
  • Female roan antelope become reproductively active after they reach 32 to 34 months of age.
  • A single calf is born after a gestation period of 260 to 281 days. The expectant female leaves the herd about one or two weeks before giving birth. After giving birth she returns to the herd.
  • Female roan antelope nurse and care for their young in a protected area. They leave their newborns in hiding for the day, returning to the calves at dusk to spend the night. Calves stay hidden for about four or five weeks after birth and join the herd after they are strong enough to outrun danger.
  • Dominant males mate with the females in their herd and actively defend access to those females. Males fight among themselves for positions as dominant males with a herd of females. These fights can be ferocious but rarely result in death. Males fight with their scimitar-shaped horns.
V. BEHAVIOR
  • Roan antelope are mainly active during the cooler parts of the day, in the morning and evening.
  • They are not typically wary animals, unless they have been persecuted. They usually run short distances when disturbed, then look back to investigate the disturbance. They can run as fast as 57 km/hour.
  • Roan antelope associate in herds of up to 35 individuals, though herd sizes of 6 to 15 are more common. One study found that herds generally range across 6,400 to 10,400 hectares per year, with the average area used at any one time being 200 to 400 hectares. Herd ranges do not often overlap.
  • These herds are composed of a single, dominant male and a group of females and their young. A hierarchy exists among the females of the herd with one dominant female as the leader of the females. Juvenile females remain with the herd until the herd becomes too large. If the herd becomes too large, some of the cows and calves will leave to form a new herd.
  • Juvenile males are forced to disperse at about 3 years of age. Juvenile males that are driven out of the herd join together to form bachelor herds of usually 3 to 5 individuals, though as many as 12 individuals have been observed. At about 5 to 6 years of age bachelor herds break up and those males try to take over a herd of females. The most dominant male of the bachelor group is the first to obtain a herd of females. Fights break out between males for dominance but these rarely result in physical harm to either individual. Males defend an area of about 300 to 500 meters outward from their herd.
VI. HABITAT
  • Roan antelope are found in lightly wooded savanna with medium to tall grass and must have access to water.
VII. ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE FOR HUMANS
  • Positive
    Roan antelope were hunted in the past for their meat and for sport. They are declining in numbers and hunting is now illegal. They attract eco-tourism activities as well.
  • Negative
    There are no negative affects of roan antelope on humans.
      VIII. CONSERVATION
      • Roan antelope are listed by IUCN as lower risk, conservation dependent and are on CITES Appendix III in Ghana. They have declined drastically in recent years as a result of habitat deterioration, hunting and poaching, agricultural encroachment, and have been slaughtered deliberately in tsetse fly control efforts.



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