Jan 102010
photo provided courtesy of gsz on Flickr Creative CommonsHomeWestern, Central, and Eastern Africa
Habitatgrasslands and tropical forest
Niche large herbivore
Favorite Food grass
Lengthup to 8 feet, nose to tail tip
Weightup to nearly 700 pounds
Status Lower Risk for Extinction
Threatshunting, habitat loss

Waterbucks get their name from their main defense against predators on the African Savanna. When threatened, they will bolt to the nearest body of water and quickly submerge themselves. Although it’s not the most daring way to save skin, lions don’t swim. The French also gave a name to these giant antelopes that didn’t quite stick through the ages – greasy kob. The name refers to an oily secretion produced on the fur that acts as a smell signature for other waterbucks as far away as 500 miles.

Despite its ability to evade land predators, life is still difficult for a large, tasty herbivore on the vast grasslands of Africa. Fewer than 20% of males will live long enough to defend their own territory against other males during the mating season. The male waterbucks that do pass this rite of dominance are left with something besides a plentiful supply of females. Waterbuck territories are carved out bordering rivers and ponds, where the grass is greener and the avenue of escape is wider.

Waterbucks are among the more common antelope in Africa, owing to their wide distribution and better adaptability to marshy environments than their relatives. Apart from crocodiles and lions, the biggest threat to waterbucks is man. They thrive on both grassland and plentiful fresh water, so if either shrinks, then so will waterbuck populations.

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