bontebok, Damaliscus pygargus pygarus

photo: Nico Smit

bontebok, Damaliscus pygargus pygarus (4)

photo: Ecoprint

Habitat: South Africa & Lesotho
Status: Least Concern

This handsome creature is called the Bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygarus), one of the rarest antelopes in Southern Africa. There are actually two subspecies of the bontebok; the bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygarus), occurring naturally in the Fynbos and Renosterveld areas of the Western Cape, and the blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) occurring in the highveld. The blesbok differs from the bontebok in two ways: First, the bontebok has an unbroken white facial blaze, whereas the blesbok has the white blaze broken by a brown band between the eyes. The bontebok also has a purplish sheen to its coat, whereas the blesbok is more reddish-brown.

Both species of Bontebok are extinct in the wild. They were hunted into extinction mainly during the early 19th century, leaving only 17 individuals to create a new population (source). Luckily, farmers had the foresight to protect these remaining individuals and enclosed them onto their land. While hunting and trade of both subspecies still occurs, this is believed to be strictly controlled and so no longer poses a major threat. It is incredibly sad that both the Bontebok and the Blesbok no longer roam wild in South Africa, however I am thankful that the species remains due to the protection it has on farms and game reserves.

bontebok, Damaliscus pygargus pygarus (5)

photo: Duncan Noakes

Young bontebok will eventually grow into full-size adults, measuring 80 to 100 cm (31 to 39 in) high at the shoulder and 120 to 210 cm (47 to 83 in) along the head and body. They are classified as tall, medium-sized antelope. Body mass can vary from 50 to 155 kg (110 to 340 lb) but males are slightly larger and noticeably heavier than females.