Sitatunga - Tragelaphus spekii

Sitatunga are related to bushbuck and kudu with whom they share spirally twisted horns and body stripes but they have a hunched appearance, a dark shaggy coat and narrow face. Only males carry shallow-spiraled and keeled horns. The average horn length is 600 mm. The world record is 924 mm. The pelage of ewes is a dark to reddish-brown with a black band running down the center of the back, and with pale vertical stripes on the sides, as well as lateral white bands and spots on the haunches. Both sexes have a white band between the eyes, and white spots on the cheeks. They also have two distinct white patches on the body, one above the chest and one on the throat, below the chin. The tail is black tipped, brown above and white below. Another characteristic feature of Sitatunga, is the much elongated and splayed hooves and enlarged false hooves, covered with a swollen leathery pad. This is an obvious adaptation to the soft, muddy substrate of its habitat. Feeding preference is for freshly sprouted reed tips, but will also take aquatic grasses such as Eragrotis inamoena. Extremely specific in their habitat. They are only found in dense and extensive reedbeds of Papyrus, Phragmites and Typha. Because of the dense nature of ideal habitats, and even with high sitatunga densities, observations are understandably rare and intermitted. One is extremely lucky to even get a glimpse of this species. They live almost permanently in water and have evolved splayed hooves to allow them to move easily in mud. The best chances of seeing this shy animal, other than from the air, is to cruise quietly in a mokoro or walk around island fringes in early morning and at dusk. The permanently flooded areas of the Okavango south of the panhandle are the most rewarding areas.