Steenbok, Raphicerus campestris
The steenbok (Raphicerus campestris) is also known as the steinbuck or steinbok. It is native to Africa, specifically southern and eastern areas including Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Botswana. It prefers many habitats within its range including open plains, stony savannah, and wooded areas. In the Kalahari Desert and Etosha National Park, steenbok prefer semi-desert habitat, and in the central portion of Kruger National Park, it is thought that the steenbok prefers “unstable” habitats like Acacia tortilis savannah, with no preference for moister areas. There are currently two recognized subspecies of the steenbok.
The steenbok is small, reaching an average height of up to 1.9 feet, with small, parallel horns that can be up to 7.4 inches long. The coat of the steenbok ranges from tawny to reddish, although it is most commonly a shade of orange. The underbelly, chin, and throat are white in color and white fur occurs around the eyes as well. Between the ears is a black, curved marking and a black line runs from this mark to the tip of the nose. The inside of the ears bear “finger marks” and the short tail, not often seen, can be up to 2.3 inches long.
Steenbok are typically active in the daytime during wet seasons, although during dry seasons they can be seen resting in shady areas grooming, taking quick naps, or ruminating. The main diet of the steenbok typically consists of low-lying vegetation, but they are skilled in digging up tubers and roots. Steenbok located in the central portion of Kruger National Park prefer forbs, followed by woody plants if forbs are not abundant. They are known to eat fruits occasionally, but rarely feed on grass. Steenbok do not require major water sources as the water they need comes from plant materials.
Usually solitary in nature, the steenbok can only be seen socializing when mating and rearing young. It is thought that although these pairs are separate, they remain in recognizable territories that are marked by dung middens. These home territories can be up to 9.8 acres in size. Steenbok are able to mate throughout the year, and typically give birth in the months of November to December. Some females are able to give birth twice a year to one fawn. This fawn will remain hidden in tall grass or bushes for the first two weeks of its life and will suckle for up to three months. Female fawns are sexually mature at six to eight months, while males mature at nine months. The average lifespan of the steenbok is seven years.
Steenbok display avoidance of predators, seeking shelter in low vegetation or aardvark burrows as soon as one has been spotted. If the predator approaches the steenbok, it will flee in a zigzagging pattern and does not usually look back until the predator has given up pursuit. Common predators include jackals, leopards, African wild cats, martial eagles, hyenas, caracals, and pythons. The Steenbok is listed in the IUCN Red List as of “Least Concern”.
Image Caption: A female Steenbok in mopane woodland near Okongwati, Kunene Region, Namibia. Credit: Hans Hillewaert/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)