Population In Wild: 4,300 (estimated)
The Nile lechwe (or Kobus megaceros) is a species of ungulate native to the marshes and swamps of South Sudan and Ethiopia. They exhibit a high level of sexual dimorphism: male Nile lechwes are larger than females, with a length of 5.3ft to 6ft, shoulder height of 3.3ft to 3.5ft and weight of 198lb to 264lb. They have long ridged horns and their coat is of a dark brown color, with white markings on the shoulders, face and legs. The male's neck is covered with longer, bushy hairs. Conversely, female Nile lechwes do not have horns and have a much lighter tan colored coat. Females measure 4.3ft to 5.6ft in length, stand 2.6ft to 2.8ft tall at the shoulder and weigh between 132lb and 198lb.
Nile lechwe are found in only two relatively small and fragmented areas and are considered an endangered species. It proves difficult to enact protection efforts as they live in areas of civil and political instability, as such hunting and habitat fragmentation continue to threaten the species despite their protection status.
Nile lechwes, like most antelopes, live in herds, which can be composed of several group types: groups of females and their offspring, male bachelor groups, or breeding harems where a dominant male gathers multiple receptive females. Solitary dominant males tend to protect a territory against other males and pursue any female passing through in the hopes of mating with them.
Most matings occur between a dominant male and females grazing on his territory, though bachelor males may also occasionally manage to secure a mate. Generally the territorial males will chase off any bachelor males, or engage in short, violent fights with rivals if necessary. To initiate mating, the male will urinate on his neck, and attempt to rub his beard on a receptive female's head or rump, Should she allow this, he will mount her to mate.
Pregnancies last between 7 and 9 months, after which the female gives birth to a single calf. For the first week of its life, the calf will exclusively feed on milk and then begin eating young grasses. Weaning is complete by 5 to 6 months old, by which time the mother can already be pregnant again.
Calves may be independent of their mothers as early as 6 months old and migrate to a different group or even herd at this point, though they reach sexual maturity later in life, at around 2 years old. Males are however unlikely to mate at this age, growing stronger until they are able to guard territory of their own.
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- The horns of male Nile Lechwes can grow up to 34.8in long.
- Juvenile male Nile Lechwes look similar to females, except for their developing horns. As they age, they develop their darker coat with the characteristic white patches.
- In the wild, warble flies can parasitize Nile Lechwe calves, leading to relatively high mortality as the larvae feed on tissue under the skin and can cause infections.
- As the live close to bodies of water and spend long periods grazing on aquatic plants, Nile Lechwes are a key prey species for crocodiles.
- Nile Lechwes are also known as Mrs. Gray's Lechwe, after Maria Emma Gray, the wife of John Edward Gray, a keeper at the British Museum. who also proposed to classify the species as 'Kobus maria'.