Reedbuck- The African Antelope! – Article by Gareth Jones
THE NAIROBI REEDBUCK! – BY GARETH JONES
Late one afternoon I drove to the Hyena dam area. It was very evident that some parts of the park were looking green, with various sightings of herbivores and birds. As I turned a tight corner at the hyena dam, suddenly a family group of 3 bohor reedbucks were standing near the road. I stopped immediately, and amazingly they continued to feed and behave naturally. It was a rare opportunity to watch them closely in an open area with a clear view. Normally they are not easily seen as they hide in the thick long reed beds near water. They prefer grasses and tender reed shoots with high protein and low fiber content. Their behavior is markedly different from other antelope species. There is always a constant watch, while the others feed and then if there is possible danger, they suddenly all freeze and stand motionless like statues for sometime. To find them during the day, it is advisable to look carefully next to and inside reeds next to wetlands and dams. Females are hornless, while the male has short sharp forward curving horns. Their social structure is highly flexible, with no fixed breeding season. A single calf is born after a seven month gestation.
On a separate occasion when visiting the Ole Sereni hotel in February this year I had a fantastic sighting of many bohor reedbuck. Using a pair of binoculars I sat quietly for about an hour and managed to count 17 bohor reedbucks including 3 younger reedbucks on the normally wet area in front of the hotel inside the Nairobi National Park. This gathering of Bohor reedbucks during the dry season is part of their natural behavior, and also allows males to challenge other males to be able to eventually mate with females, in this way the strongest gene pool is maintained. It is strange that in all the years of well over 4,500 visits to the park, that I should see the most bohor reedbucks ever seen in a single sighting from the comfort of the Ole Sereni hotel.
Over many years I have witnessed a number of predator incidents involving bohor reedbuck. I saw 3 young lions kill a baby reedbuck while it bleated helplessly in October 2009. It is never a pleasant sight to see a helpless young lamb killed, before it even has a chance to have much life. Photographing a female cheetah chase a reedbuck across the same road at the Hyena dam in 2003. Reedbucks face many pressures to survive and usually give a high pitched alarm whistle to alert others and while fleeing from danger.
While some people might be aware of the more common bohor reedbucks frequenting the wetland areas of the Nairobi park, very few people are aware of the rarely seen Chandlers Mountain reedbuck found in some of the rocky areas of the park, like the 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 when the grass is greener they can be seen more easily.
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 Chandler) are found in the Nairobi National Park.
When visiting the Nairobi park it is always best to drive slowly, you might just be blessed with great sightings of many species.
The park is open daily from 06h00 to 19h00.