Bio Facts: Klipspringer
From the Cape of Good Hope all the way up East Africa and into Ethiopia
Rocky, stony ground with abundant short vegetation, from coastal hills up to elevations of 14,764 ft (4,500 m)
Height - approximately 22 in. (58 cm) at the shoulder; males have horns about 4 – 6 in. (10–15 cm) long. Head-body length: 29.5 – 45.2 in. (75 – 115 cm); weight 17.6 – 39.7 lbs. (8 – 18 kg). They stand on the tips of their hooves. Males and females have preorbital glands, males have preputial glands, and neither sex has hoof glands.
20 years (in captivity)
Approximately 1 year
In the wild, they eat herbs, low foliage, sometimes seeds, fruits, buds, twigs, bark and grasses; in the Zoo they are fed a scientifically developed, commercially available pelleted grain, sweet feed, fresh fruits and vegetables.
IUCN – Lower Risk, Least Concern
Klipspringers are monogamous animals that are nearly always seen in pairs, usually with one offspring. The bond between a male and female is strong and enduring; they spend most of their time within a 10 ft of each other with one being look-out while the other feeds, and this relationship usually lasts until one dies. Together the pair defends a territory in which they feed. Occasionally groups of eight or more klipspringers may be seen, but these quickly split back into family groups when disturbed.
Klipspringers mark the perimeter of their territories with secretions from their preorbital glands and with dung deposits. Males actively defend their territory from conspecifics by horn-presenting and by chasing intruders. Males fight by stabbing and butting heads; females fight by biting.
Klipspringers are selective browsers. They prefer lush evergreen shrubs and herbs but will eat fruit, seed pods, flowers and lichens. They will leave their home ranges to forage on new grass shoots. They drink when water is available but they generally get water from their food.
Like many animals that live in Africa’s hot climate, klipspringers generally rest during the heat of the day, and are also generally inactive after midnight. The gestation period of the klipspringer is 210 days, after which a well-developed calf is born. Young hide in vegetation for up to three months, while the mother visits three or four times a day for suckling. Young join the parents after 2-3 months and are weaned after 4-5 months. Horns begin to develop at 6 months and are fully grown at 17-18 months. Young reach adult size after one year.
This fascinating small antelope has a number of distinct features that make it well adapted to its rugged, rocky habitat. It is unique amongst the antelope for walking on the tips of its hooves, and it has a remarkable dense, coarse coat consisting of hollow hairs that rustles when shaken or touched. When the klipspringer is hot or sick its fur stands erect to release excess heat. The coat varies in color from yellow-brown to grey-yellow, with whitish underparts, chin and lips. With a thick and dense speckled “salt and pepper” patterned coat of an almost olive shade, Klipspringers blend in well with the kopjes (rock outcrops, pronounced “kah-pees”) on which they can usually be found.
The Klipspringer is known for its remarkable jumping ability and is able to leap to staggering heights of 25 feet, which is about 15 times its own height. Klipspringers have a modified hoof structure that allows them to be especially agile on rocky terrain. The animal stands on the tips of its hooves, and the two digits are kept tightly connected by integument so they do not splay. The outer edges of the hooves are kept sharp by wear on the soft, inner surface.
The individual hairs are loosely connected to the skin and are hollow. This hair type is unique among bovids and otherwise found only in pronghorns and the white tailed deer.
Klipspringer literally means “rock jumper” in Afrikaans, and also known colloquially as a mvundla, from Xhosa “umvundla”, meaning “rabbit.”
Klipspringers are vulnerable to both hunting and competition from goats. These threats have resulted in populations in some areas being eliminated and others, particularly in agricultural regions, becoming rare.
It is listed as Least Concern as the total population has been estimated at more than 40,000, 25% of which were in protected areas. Populations in many protected areas and on private land are considered stable, and substantial numbers occur in unprotected but inaccessible habitat. This species’ conservation status should not change and its future should be secure as long as it continues to receive active protection in national parks and equivalent reserves, hunting concessions and private farmland. It should also continue to survive in substantial numbers in extensive, inaccessible areas of unprotected habitat.
However, the western klipspringer subspecies (Oreotragus oreotragus porteousi) is at risk of extinction if no attempts are made to implement protective measures or begin a captive breeding program, and so conservation measures are urgently required to save this distinctive and fascinating antelope.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has exhibited this small antelope since 1998. Our success at breeding this not often exhibited species has already reached double-digit numbers of offspring.