The springbok is the national animal of South Africa. Beautiful, graceful, sleek and striking. The common name Springbok comes from the Afrikaans words spring (jump) and bok (antelope).
Many people come back from their Safari Holiday in South Africa and say to me: “we did not see any Springbok”. That is because Springbok are not found in every national park or game reserve in South Africa, they are confined to certain regions in their natural habitat.
Where will I find Springbok
Springbok inhabit the more arid regions of south and southwestern Africa. They are widespread across the vast grasslands of the Free State and the shrublands of the Karoo in South Africa.
There is no springbok found naturally in the eastern regions of South Africa including the Kruger National Park. In this eastern region of the country, the impala is the common medium-sized antelope.
Due to game farming, breeding and selling, springbok are widely distributed on game farms throughout South Africa, including areas where they would never have occurred naturally.
To observe springbok in their natural habitat the Northern Cape, Free State and North West provinces is where to head. My favourite destination would be the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, here they have occurred naturally for hundreds of years.
The springbok is characterised by a white face, a dark stripe running from the eyes to the mouth, a light-brown coat pronounced by a reddish-brown stripe that runs from the upper fore leg towards the buttocks across the flanks, and a white rump flap.
How Big are Springbok
Springbok are medium-sized antelope. The male animal (Ram) are heavier and more robustly built and can weigh up to 40 kilograms, while the females weigh in slightly lighter at around 37 kilograms. The horns of the ram are also much larger and thicker.
Springbok are highly gregarious and tend to congregate in large herds. Territorial rams defend their herds of ewes in breeding season and fight off other rams. Although older bachelors are frequently found alone or in small groups. It is also common to come across herds of younger bachelors.
In earlier times, before the settlers moved into the Karoo and set up farms demarcated by fences the Springbok of the Kalahari Desert and Karoo would migrate in their tens of thousands.
Stories abound of massive herds, hundreds of kilometres long, taking several days to pass by a settlement; this great migration was known as ‘trekbokken’. Trekbokken is still observed occasionally in Botswana, though on a much smaller scale than earlier years.
One of the most spectacular displays to see in the wild and unique to Springbok is ‘pronking’. The Springbok performs multiple leaps into the air which can be as high as 2 metres (6.6 ft) above the ground, in a stiff-legged posture, with the back bowed and its white flap on the rump lifted.
Pronking is also performed when the rams are rutting and defending their territories and female herds against other rams, with the apparent intention to impress the females.
Breeding takes place year-round, and peaks in the rainy season, when forage is most abundant. The lambing season often corresponds to availability and supply of food and the prevailing climate. However, lambing is mainly in spring to early summer.
A single calf is born after a five- to six-month-long pregnancy; weaning occurs at nearly six months of age, and the calf leaves its mother a few months later. The newly born lambs are hidden away for a few days under tall grass or shrubs.
Springbok are not water dependent but will readily drink water when available. They are predominantly grazers, preferring short grass. However, they will also eat herbal shrubs and bushes, leaves and seed pods, as well as wild fruits and young shoots.
This antelope can live without drinking water for long periods, meeting its requirements through eating succulent vegetation.
Springbok passing through bushes tend to be more vulnerable to predator attacks as they cannot be easily alerted, and this affords predators more cover to conceal themselves in bushes.
Springbok do have several predators to fear. Although a Springbok can reach speeds of up to 55 miles per hour, they can be outrun by cheetahs over a short distance and by wild dogs over a long distance.
They remain alert and flee at the first sign of danger. Predators include the big cats especially; Cheetah, Leopard, African Wild Dog, Lion and Hyena. Caracal, Southern African Wildcats, Jackals, Martial Eagles, Black Eagles and Tawny Eagles target juveniles.