Monday, August 4, 2014

Common or Ellipsen Waterbuck

Waterbucks are broken down into two groups and 13 subspecies. The Ellipsen (or common) waterbuck group consists of 4 subspecies and is recognizable by the bulls eye or ellipse-shaped ring on its rump which extends above the tail. The Defassa waterbuck group consists of 9 subspecies and is recognizable by solid white patches on its rump. 
Male ellipsen waterbucks in Buffalo Springs NR. Photo by Michael Lewin.
The ellipsen waterbuck is found east of the Rift Valley from central Kenya to northern Botswana and eastern South Africa. It is a shaggy antelope with a long body and short legs and has a coat color of reddish brown to gray, darkening with age. It has black legs. It has a white strip from above its eyebrows down the muzzle to just below the eye, white inside the ears, white around the nasal area and lips, a white throat bib (almost from ear to ear), and the white ellipse on the rump. Only the male has horns and they are long, heavily ridged and point forward. 
White ellipse on rump, white bib, eye-strip and white on muzzle and around lips are all readily apparent. This was one of my favorite deer. Photo by Michael Lewin.
Females live in herds with their young and one male. Males without females live in bachelor herds. They have sweat glands on their bodies which produce an oily secretion which helps waterproof their coats and gives a strong musky odor. Ernest Hemingway, in Green Hills of Africa, notes that the waterbuck "was worthless as good to eat." This is because of the musky smell. Although unpleasant to human taste, predators will not hesitate to go after them. We saw that first hand in Masai Mara as we watched a cheetah eat a young defassa waterbuck while its mother looked on. 
Photo by Steven Shuel
They are dependent on water, where they drink almost daily, and are known to take refuge in water to escape predators. We saw quite a few ellipsen waterbuck in Buffalo Springs NR and I believe we saw a few other solitary individuals in other areas, but none I was able to photograph or that I specifically remember. 
Poor picture of a female waterbuck, but it does give a view of the ellipse on the rump. 
Another ellipse rump shot on a female waterbuck. 

1 comment:

  1. The have such beautiful fur, and it's interesting how perfectly it matches the weaver nests in the trees.