Nile Lechwe

Lechwe, Nile

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  • Information
  • Conservation
  • Lifestyle

Description

The Nile lechwe exhibits sexual dimorphism so extreme that males and females look as if they belong to different species. Adult males have a shaggy blackish-brown coat with a white band, or chevron, on the neck. Females and juveniles are reddish-brown. Young males look like females until they reach 2-3 years of age when their color begins to darken and horns begin to grow. Only the males grow horns, which are long, lyre or U-shaped, heavily ridged at their bases, and reach 20-35 in (50-90 cm) in length. Both males and females have elongated hooves that allow them to swim and wade with great efficiency.

Classification

Class
Mammalia
Order
Cetartiodactyla
Family
Bovidae
Genus
Kobus
Species
K. menacers
Conservation Status
Endangered

Key Facts

Height
30-40 in (~80-105 cm)
Weight
130-265 lb (~60-120 kg)

The IUCN Red List describes Kobus megaceros as an Endangered species. In the 1980’s the Nile lechwe population was estimated at 30,000-40,000 individuals. Available evidence based on aerial surveys in 1980 and 2007 suggest that a decline in the Nile lechwe population exceeding 50% has taken place over the past 21 years. The situation is likely to deteriorate further as a result of oil exploration, hunting, competition with domestic species, habitat degradation and exploitation.

Social Life
Nile lechwe are diurnal (active during the day), and social, forming herds of 50-500 individuals. Within a herd there are three social classes: nursing females and their young, bachelor males, and mature males with territory. Nile lechwe undergo short seasonal movements of 19-25 mi (30-40 km) to follow the rise and fall of floodwaters. They are semi-aquatic, preferring to live in and around water, and when feeding will stand in water and feed off the banks of rivers. They will rest in areas above the water level such as dry banks, sandbanks, and islands, and flee to water when disturbed. Mating occurs in a lek, an aggregation of males that gather to display to females. Dominant males will urinate through their front legs onto their neck mane, and then may rub this onto females. Males in mixed herds form a dominance hierarchy based on coloration; those that lack white markings are usually tolerated, but two closely-matched mature males will fight. There is no cooperative defense by the herd when attacked, but females will defend their offspring from smaller predators.

Habitat and Range
The Nile lechwe lives in swamps and flooded grasslands in southern Sudan and western Ethiopia. They are excellent waders and swimmers and are often found in shallow water 4-16 in (10-40 cm) deep.

Diet
Herbivorous, semi-aquatic antelope, Nile lechwe eat grasses, herbs, and water plants on river banks and in emerging areas from receding floods.

Lifespan
Lechwe live an average of 10-12 years in the wild with a maximum longevity of 19 years in captivity.

Predators
The flooded habitat used by the Nile lechwe has relatively few predators; rarely, lion, leopard, hyena or crocodile may hunt them.

Reproduction
Sexual maturity: Male: 19-20 months, Female: 19-20 months
Mating Season: February to May
Birth Season:    November to January
Gestation:          7-9 months
No. of Young:    1

Information

Description

The Nile lechwe exhibits sexual dimorphism so extreme that males and females look as if they belong to different species. Adult males have a shaggy blackish-brown coat with a white band, or chevron, on the neck. Females and juveniles are reddish-brown. Young males look like females until they reach 2-3 years of age when their color begins to darken and horns begin to grow. Only the males grow horns, which are long, lyre or U-shaped, heavily ridged at their bases, and reach 20-35 in (50-90 cm) in length. Both males and females have elongated hooves that allow them to swim and wade with great efficiency.

Classification

Class
Mammalia
Order
Cetartiodactyla
Family
Bovidae
Genus
Kobus
Species
K. menacers
Conservation Status
Endangered

Key Facts

Height
30-40 in (~80-105 cm)
Weight
130-265 lb (~60-120 kg)
Conservation

The IUCN Red List describes Kobus megaceros as an Endangered species. In the 1980’s the Nile lechwe population was estimated at 30,000-40,000 individuals. Available evidence based on aerial surveys in 1980 and 2007 suggest that a decline in the Nile lechwe population exceeding 50% has taken place over the past 21 years. The situation is likely to deteriorate further as a result of oil exploration, hunting, competition with domestic species, habitat degradation and exploitation.

Lifestyle

Social Life
Nile lechwe are diurnal (active during the day), and social, forming herds of 50-500 individuals. Within a herd there are three social classes: nursing females and their young, bachelor males, and mature males with territory. Nile lechwe undergo short seasonal movements of 19-25 mi (30-40 km) to follow the rise and fall of floodwaters. They are semi-aquatic, preferring to live in and around water, and when feeding will stand in water and feed off the banks of rivers. They will rest in areas above the water level such as dry banks, sandbanks, and islands, and flee to water when disturbed. Mating occurs in a lek, an aggregation of males that gather to display to females. Dominant males will urinate through their front legs onto their neck mane, and then may rub this onto females. Males in mixed herds form a dominance hierarchy based on coloration; those that lack white markings are usually tolerated, but two closely-matched mature males will fight. There is no cooperative defense by the herd when attacked, but females will defend their offspring from smaller predators.

Habitat and Range
The Nile lechwe lives in swamps and flooded grasslands in southern Sudan and western Ethiopia. They are excellent waders and swimmers and are often found in shallow water 4-16 in (10-40 cm) deep.

Diet
Herbivorous, semi-aquatic antelope, Nile lechwe eat grasses, herbs, and water plants on river banks and in emerging areas from receding floods.

Lifespan
Lechwe live an average of 10-12 years in the wild with a maximum longevity of 19 years in captivity.

Predators
The flooded habitat used by the Nile lechwe has relatively few predators; rarely, lion, leopard, hyena or crocodile may hunt them.

Reproduction
Sexual maturity: Male: 19-20 months, Female: 19-20 months
Mating Season: February to May
Birth Season:    November to January
Gestation:          7-9 months
No. of Young:    1

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Lechwe, Nile