Mountain Reedbuck – Article by Gareth Jones
The Chanler’s Mountain Reedbuck
While some people might be aware of the more common Bohor reedbuck frequenting the wetland areas of the Nairobi Park, very few people are aware of the rarely seen Chanler’s Mountain reedbuck found in some of the rocky areas of the park, like Mbuni loop and the drive between No 8 & No 10 junctions. Every time I drive these routes I look carefully at the rocks for the mountain reedbuck. They have excellent camouflage as their almost mottled brown colour has been created to blend in on rocky terrain and long golden grass. During the dry months, they are more difficult to find, but after the rains, with greener grass, they can be seen more easily. Where conditions are favourable, breeding occurs year-round. In regions of South Africa with harsh winters, most births occur in the summer (mostly November), while in East Africa, births are concentrated around the March to May rains. Infants are tucked away in dense vegetation by their mothers for at least one month and remain hidden there unless visited for nursing.
Males 43-65 kg, tend to be larger than females 35-45 kg. Both sexes have a soft, woolly coat of greyish-fawn fur. The underparts are bright white, and the tail has a bushy white underside. A round bare patch of black skin (a scent gland) is located beneath the long, slender ears. Only males grow horns, which are short and possess a slight forward curve. Mountain reedbucks are predominantly grazers, and water is an important habitat requirement. They prefer habitats of grassy hills and rocky slopes and traditionally feed on a variety of grasses. They tend to feed in the early evening and morning hours, normally in small groups of six or fewer animals. A typical group is made up of one adult male and several adult females and juveniles. Adolescent males are forced out of their herds and form small bachelor herds. Lifespan in the wild is unknown, but specimens of related species in captivity have been recorded to live up to 18 years. Horn length varies between subspecies, being shortest (approx 13 cm) in the Adamawa mountain reedbuck (Cameroon, West Africa), 18-22 cm in the southern mountain reedbuck (R. f. fulvorufula), and from 14 cm up to 35 cm in Chanler’s mountain reedbuck (R. f. chanleri).
Its elegant, slender features exemplify the grace and beauty of Africa’s antelopes. The mountain reedbuck is called ngaisulisho in the language of the Maasai people, named for the unique whistling sound it makes when predators are near or alert others regarding danger.
Reedbuck is a common name for African antelopes from the genus Redunca. There are 3 recognized species in Africa, namely Southern, Bohor, and Mountain Reedbuck. The Bohor Reedbuck also has 5 sub-species ranging from West Africa to East Africa. The Bohor Reedbuck (sub-species Redunca redunca Wardi) and the Mountain Reedbuck (sub-species Redunca fulvorufula Chanler) are both found in the Nairobi National Park. The Chanler’s mountain reedbuck occurs over a wide range in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
The mountain reedbuck is subject to some pressure from hunting and human encroachment on its habitat, and current populations appear to be declining. This species is classified as Endangered by the IUCN. When visiting Nairobi Park it is always best to drive slowly in the hope of seeing some of the more elusive creatures, you might just be blessed with great sightings of many species, including a rare sighting of Chanler’s Mountain Reedbuck.