The springbok is one of the most numerous mammals in Namibia. They are such a common part of the natural landscape that you don’t even have to visit a nature reserve to see them, and we tend to take them for granted.
Springbok are often seen grazing on the farmlands surrounding Windhoek, in the Namib Desert and on many private game farms throughout the country, but the largest herds are found in Etosha National Park.
Take a trip to any of the waterholes during your visit to Etosha and you are bound to see these agile antelope. Although they are not water dependent, springbok tend to follow the migration patterns of the other plains game around the park, and are often seen close to herds of the zebra and wildebeest which travel in search of water all year round.
Adapted to thrive
This graceful antelope is well-adapted to the harsh conditions of Namibia. They can either browse or graze according to what is available and will seek out moisture-rich roots, tubers and flowers if need be. They do most of their feeding at night, when increased humidity raises the water content of plants, enabling them to get the most out of their meals.
Springbok can breed year round, synchronising the birth of their young to coincide with times of plenty. They take good advantage of their short 25-week gestation period to ensure the lambs are born when grazing is still at its best. Like most antelope, the young are kept hidden while at their most vulnerable, joining the herd after about 4 weeks, and are completely weaned by 5 months. Young males form bachelor herds while the young females remain with their maternal herd at first.
In order to attract a harem and breed, springbok males must secure their own territory and this often involves fierce duelling matches between rivals.
What’s special about springbok?
The springbok is the only member of the genus Antidorcas, which means ‘not a gazelle’. The second part of the classification, marsupialis refers to the pocket-like skin flap that extends along the middle of the back towards the tail.
This flap, which distinguishes the springbok from the true gazelles, is raised when the springbok leaps into the air in the characteristic ‘stotting’ jump for which it is named. Raising this flap emits a sweet-smelling odour which serves to keep the herd together and identify individual members.
Those who put on the best jumping displays appear fitter and stronger than the rest – making them less desirable to predators and more attractive to prospective mates.
Just because springbok are numerous doesn’t mean they are lacklustre; spend some time admiring the acrobatic antics of these antelope on your Namibian safari.