Critter of the Week: Sitatunga



Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Subfamily: Bovinae

Genus: Tragelaphus

Species: T. Spekii

Binomial Name: Tragelaphus Spekii



Sitatungas are a medium-sized antelope that can be found in swamps, marshes, and forests throughout central Africa, less so on the Western side. Males are about twice as large as females, growing to about five feet tall and weight up to 260 pounds. Male sitatungas also have a mane on their neck and back, and long, twisted horns that can reach 35 inches in length!
Sitatungas are well-adapted to living in the swamps and marshes. Besides being great swimmers, their long coat is covered in an oil to repel water and their coloration gives them camouflage. Most notable is their specialized hooves, which are splayed and elongated to allow easy, quiet motion through the water. However, this causes sitatungas to walk awkwardly on land.
During the day, sitatungas will rest on mounds of dry earth they make themselves by trampling the vegetation down into a flat bed. Excellent pin-point hearing is the sitatungas best warning for predators as their sight provides little value since swamps are so dark and dense. If predators start closing in on a sitatunga, they will run into part of the water with a lot of vegetation with only their nostrils and eyes exposed.
Sitatungas are mainly active just after dawn and then again right before dusk, resting for most of the day. Finding food is never a challenge for sitatungas since the swamp provides plenty of it, causing them to have small home ranges. They eat a variety of plants but are still classified as selective eaters since they prefer to eat fresher greens and herbs, or whatever is in season. In fact, one study recorded 40 major plant species that were eaten by a sitatunga!
Sitatungas mate year-round. The males may have multiple mates but will stay with a female for a few days after mating to ensure no other male can approach the female. The males will also compete with other males for the right to mate, which is where their horns come into play. After eight months, the female will give birth to one calf, where the calf will be well-hidden constantly unless other sitatungas are around. After six months, the calf will go to live independently.