The Sitatunga or Marsh back (Tragelaphus spekii)is a swamp dwelling antelope found out throughout Central Africa ,centering on the Republic of Congo ,East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda ).
The species was first described by the English explorer John Hanning Speke in 1863 .The Sitatunga is a bovid belonging to the same family as antelopes .
Sitatunga are mainly active during the early hours after dawn ,the last one or two hours before dusk and night .
Sitatunga are not territorial .
Sitatunga mainly feeds on fresh grasses ,aquatic plants ,sedges and sometimes browse .
Sexual reproduction is fast in females maturing at the age of one year while males take one and a half years to mature .
Breeding occurs throughout the year but it is rapid during the dry season .
Gestation lasts for nearly eight months after which generally a single calf is born .The lifespan of Sitatunga recorded in captivity averages 22 to 23 years .
The Sitatunga is confined to marshy and swampy habitats .
Species of Sitatunga .
(a) T.s spekii (discovered by Hanning Speke in 1863)found in East Africa .
(b)T.s gratus (discovered by Sclater in 1880)also known as Congo Sitatunga or forest Sitatunga .Found in West Africa and Central Africa .
(c) T.s selousi (discovered by W.Rothschild in 1898)also known as Southern Sitatunga or Zambezi Sitatunga .It was discovered in Southern Africa .
Sitatunga exhibits sexual dimorphism that distinguishes between male and female ;male have horns while females do not have .
The height in males is approximately 177 cm while in females it is about 146cm .
The Sitatunga unlike it’s close allies such as waterbucks lacks stripes and is instead spotted .The body and legs of this antelope are specially adapted to it’s swampy habitat .The hooves of the male are elongated and widely splayed .
The head in males bend backwards to ease navigation through dense vegetations .
Sitatunga has pointed toes that allow it to walk slowly and almost noiselessly through the water .Moreover the colour of the coat provides an excellent camouflage .
Hearing is accurate and the ears are structured in a way that the animal can determine from where a sound has originated .
However Sitatunga faces various threats and of most concern is the habitat loss and degradation .
Other threats include the increasing loss of wetlands that has isolated populations and long-term changes in the water level that affects the nearby vegetation and thus bears upon it’s diet .
The Sitatunga has been classified under the Least Concern category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural resources (IUCN)
In Kenya Sitatunga is mainly found at Saiwa Swamp National Park in Trans -Nzoia Country in Kitale sub -county .Subscribe to our newsletter for more information updates .