The Sitatunga, a strange yet unique antelope!
There are over 70 species of antelope in Africa, but for those who have never seen a sitatunga, you are in for a wonderful discovery, as none is more unique and unusual than this antelope.
The sitatunga is an amphibious antelope (meaning it can dwell on both land and water). It lives in marshy habitats, such as papyrus and reed swamps, wet dambos and floodplains, and is mostly found in central, western and southern Africa. Its natural environment makes it Africa’s only aquatic species of antelope.
This shy antelope lives in hard to reach areas, so it is tricky for researchers to estimate their population and they are often very difficult to view in the wild. In Kasanka we are fortunate to have a very visible population of sitatunga. They can be seen in the morning and evening on the Kasanka River floodplain in front of Pontoon campsites, and from Vivienne’s Hide. The young are particularly playful and fantastic to watch galloping about on their long and gangling legs.
They are specially adapted to these conditions as they possess splayed hooves and particularly flexible joints at the feet which allow them to easily move about in very wet and marshy ground. Both males and females have white markings on their coats, especially along the spine. Their coat colour ranges from brown to rust, the male being darker with spiralled horns. Another particularity is their rather odd shape! They look like they are always leaning over because their rear legs are much longer than their front legs. This helps them though to gain better balance in marshy areas and to prevent them from sinking in deep mud.
These are scenes we wish our guests to wake up to each and every day in Kasanka, but it is only possible thanks to the tireless efforts of our resource protection team. Though the sitatunga is not yet considered endangered, conservationists are concerned about the species vanishing from certain areas. The Kasanka National Park’s sitatunga population has increased over the past few years, but remains fragile. The main threats in our region are poaching, human encroachment and habitat loss. For example, swamps and marshes are being drained to make way for roads and farmland, destroying the sitatunga’s habitat and food supply, and isolating populations. Vast areas of Bangweulu are burnt every year, placing animals such as the sitatunga at grave risk given the inflammability of swamps. It is a constant fight to keep these animals, among all the others, safe!
Village operation to recover snares and guns
The Kasanka Trust is in the process of transforming our joint law enforcement operations with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) into a more proactive force for which intelligence is key. The muzzle loader guns and wire for up to 100 snares that you can see in the picture, were recovered during an intelligence lead operation with assistance from the local Community Crime Prevention Unit.
If you want to become involved in saving the sitatunga, there are several ways you can join the conservation effort. Consider donating money to support our resource protection team, speak openly about the illegal bushmeat trade, and encourage friends and family to be cautious about where they buy souvenirs when they travel.