Scientifically known as Tragelaphus imberbis, lesser kudus are forest antelopes that belong to the Tragelaphus genus and Bovidae family and were first described in 1869 by Edward Blyth, an English zoologist.
Their generic name of Tragelaphus was derived from a Greek words-tragos and means male goat and elaphos that means deer whereas their scientific name of imberbis was derived from a Latin term known as “unbearded” due to their lack of the mane. Their lesser term comes from their relatively small size compared to the greater Kudus.
They are primarily browsers that feed on foliage from trees and bushes, twigs, herbs and shoots. Even with the seasonality and variations, the foliage from trees and shrubs are believed to comprise from 60 to 80 percent of their diet all year round. They also consume fruits and flowers if available.
Lesser kudus are listed under IUCN’s Red List of near threatened. However, due to their shyness, they are able to camouflage within the thick covers and get protected from risks of poaching or hunting.
The lifespan of the lesser Kudus are 10 years in the wild and more than 15 years in captivity.
Lesser kudus mostly occupy flat, dry and heavily forested areas of Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan but are said to be extinct in some countries such as Djibouti.
Their heads and bodies measure from 110 to 140 centimeters (43 to 55 inches) long. The male lesser kudus reach from 95 to 105 centimeters (37 to 41 inches) at their shoulders whereas their female counterparts measure from 90 to 100 (35 to 39) inches. Their coats are chestnut with white stripes (from 11 to 14 of them) on their backs and two white tufts on the underparts of their necks.
These forest antelopes exhibit a high degree of sexual dimorphism and the males lesser kudus weigh from 92 to 108 kilograms (203 to 238 pounds) while the females weigh half of that-56 to 70 kilograms (123 to 154 pounds).
When it comes to their coat colors, you will notice that the juveniles and females generally have reddish-brown coats and the males often become yellowish gray or darker after the age of 2 years, and surprisingly, its only the males that posses horns. Their spiral horns are usually 50 to 70 centimeters (20 to 28 inches) long and have two to two and a half twists.
These antelopes are nocturnals that are active mainly at night and during dawn, and are said to look for shelter within the thick thickets immediately after sunrise. Not only that, they usually show no territorial behavior and conflicts among them are rarely witnessed. As the females are social, the adult males prefer solitary lives.
They don’t have fixed breeding seasons thus births happen at any time of the year, depending on the resources. Their total population is estimated at about 118,000 individuals but are said to be decreasing due to several human threats resulting from hunting. Therefore, these antelopes become sexually mature at around one and a half year old but the males usually mate after 4-5 years.
Their gestational period is 7-8 months after which a single calf (weighing 4 to 7.5 kilograms/8.8 to 16.5 pounds) is born. In most cases, when the Males reproduce up to 14 years while the females are reproductive from 14 to 18 years, and the lactation age of females is usually 13 to 14 years. The females normally isolate themselves from the other group members for some days towards giving birth, Unfortunately, at least 50% of the calves die before even being half a year and only about 25%survive after 3 years.
Their key predators are leopards, African wild dogs, lions, eagles, pythons, Hyenas as well as humans who always hunt them down.