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Mountain Reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula)
Redunca fulvorufula (Afzelius, 1815)
Photo: Sam Bash
|French||Redunca de montagne|
The name of this antelope has caused huge confusion in the past! The English and Afrikaans names became muddled resulting in two different species being given the same common name namely the grey rhebok Pelea capreolus (Afr. vaalribbok) and the southern reedbuck, Redunca arundinum (Afr. rietbok). In addition, the southern mountain reedbuck has also been called “rooibok”, “rooi-rhebok”, “roy-reabuck” and “reebock”. It is the antelope that best survived both the colonist hunting onslaught of the 18-19th century and the more recent impact of livestock farming. Its survival is due to its ability to thrive in broken, marginal habitats.
IUCN Conservation Status:
• Southern mountain reedbuck and Chanler’s mountain reedbuck = Least concern (LC).
• Adamane or western mountain reedbuck = Critically endangered (CR)
The genus Redunca consists of three species namely
• R. arundinum the southern or common reedbuck of central and southern Africa
• R. redunca the bohor reedbuck of sub-saharan Africa excluding southern Africa, with five sub-species
• R. fulvorufula the mountain reedbuck with three sub-species
• R.f. chanleri Chanler’s mountain reedbuck of eastern and north-eastern Africa
• R.f. adamauae the western or Adamane mountain reedbuck of Cameroon and Nigeria
• R.f. fulvorufula the southern mountain reedbuck of South Africa.
The tribe Reduncini also includes the genera Kobus that hosts the waterbucks and the Pelea or grey rhebuck Pelea capreolus. It is important to note that a close relationship between the grey rhebuck and the reedbucks does not exist.
The upper parts of the body of mountain reedbuck are mainly yellow-grey, the underside white and the shoulders and neck a reddish tan. The hair is slightly fluffy around the neck, especially on the throat area. The ears are long and narrow with round tips, differing from those of the grey rhebuck that are spiked. The tail is short, wide and fluffy with a white underside.
Both the mountain reedbuck and the southern or common reedbuck have a 20 mm dark brown spot below the ear which covers a scent gland. Both are absent in the grey rhebuck. The bohor and southern reedbuck have a prominent white patch on the throat which is inconspicuous in the mountain reedbuck and absent in the grey rhebuck. In contrast to the mountain reedbuck, the common reedbuck has a dark brown blaze directly above the nostril and a dark brown tint down the front of the forelegs.
Adult rams are slightly larger having an average shoulder height of 76 cm against the ewes of 70 cm. On average, adult rams are 2 kg heavier than ewes, the body mass of rams being 24-36 kg and ewes, 18-34 kg.
Only the ram has well developed horns. These measure 13-18 cm and are heavily grooved for two thirds of their length. They have sharp tips and the anterior halves bend forward by 60-80°. When viewed from the front the horns are slightly V-shaped. The horns of the common reedbuck are more than double in length and bend less, while those of the grey rhebuck are straight and parallel.
Comparison to Man
The basic parameters of a suitable habitat are an uneven topography of hills, ridges and mountains with plentiful stones and rocks and a lush cover of medium to tall grass. A short grass terrain, other than the new flush on recently burned veld, is usually avoided. New growth on burnt veld is highly favoured and can temporarily attract mountain reedbuck from neighbouring home ranges. They enjoy grazing in the ecotones between the foot slopes of mountains and their adjacent plains to a maximum distance of 1 km from the slope. Mountain plateaus are frequently grazed by mountain reedbuck but they return to slopes for cover and refuge.
Favoured vegetation varies from open savannah with a lush mixed-grass herbaceous layer to the pure grassland of sourveld. Sweetveld is seldom inhabited as it is usually associated with a dry or semi-arid climate. Closed woodland, thickets, and forests are not suitable. The annual rainfall must be within a range of 400-900 mm and surface water for daily drinking should be available. Mountain reedbuck rarely move further than 2 km from a drinking source. They occur at altitudes ranging from 100-1 600 m.
Mountain reedbuck are diurnal and most activity takes place from two hours after sunrise to two hours before sunset. In the late afternoon they tend to move downslope to adjacent plains to graze. They spend most of the night close to the foot of mountain slopes and in the early morning move uphill to hide on high ground for the day. When alarmed they frequently give a sharp, high toned whistle. If approached, they either lie down in tall grass with only their ears showing until the gap has closed to about 40 m, or stand guard for a short time and then flee. Mountain reedbuck tend to run parallel to the mountain slope in a sequence of a few short stretches of 20-300 m and then make their way down to the foot of the mountain where they take cover in brush or tall grass. Between the short runs they frequently stop to look back at the intruder. This behaviour differs from that of the grey rhebuck which shares the same environment but generally runs uphill when frightened. Mountain reedbuck generally run several hundred meters per flight and, with continued pursuit, will run 2-4 km in <20 min. They gallop with long strides and the tail curled upwards to flash the white underside to following members of the group.
Feeding & Nutrition
Mountain reedbuck are primarily grazers that periodically eat small quantities of browse. They are selective of new growth and the softer, green parts of medium to tall grasses of both mixed and sour grassland. Dried leaves and the fibrous stems of old grass are avoided. The diet of mountain reedbuck has a much higher crude fibre and lower protein content than that of highly selective antelope such as springbok and impala. Due to the poor nutritional value of the dietary grasses, mountain reedbuck can lose up to 20% of their body mass during dry winter seasons. They do not readily move to new grounds when food resources become depleted but rather limit their breeding until older individuals die off.
Important dietary grasses include red-grass Themeda triandra, thatch-grass Hyparrhinia spp. and Aristida spp. The short sweet-grass Cynodon dactylon and Eragrostis obtusa that are highly favoured by most other antelope are not readily eaten by mountain reedbuck.
Mountain reedbuck are semi-gregarious and are usually seen in small family groups of 3-6 individuals. Multi-family groups of up to 40 members may form in some environments. Strict family bonding does not exist and members frequently exchange between adjacent families. The social structure comprises of
• Unstable family groups of adult ewes and their lambs of <15 months
• Small sub-adult bachelor groups of 1-2.5 years
• Solitary territorial adult rams of >2.5 years
When young rams become sexually mature at 9-15 months, they are aggressively chased away from the family by the territorial ram. They then join bachelor groups where they remain until they reach social maturity at 2.5 years and establish their own territories.
The natural population structure as determined in the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve in Mpumalangha is: adult territorial rams 33%, adult ewes 36%, sub-adult males 22% and sub-adult females 9%.
Socially mature rams <2.5 years are solitary and territorial. Alarmed animals may abandon their territories temporarily but return soon after the disturbance has ceased. Rams do not scent-mark with dung middens of repeated defecation but rather establish their territory with an aggressive body display. Family groups remain within stable home ranges which overlap 2-3 ram territories. Both territory and home range sizes vary in relation to the prevailing veld condition, fodder abundance and animal density. When a family crosses the territory of a dominant ram, he will attempt to retain them for as long as possible and will mate with any adult ewe that comes into oestrus.
Photo: Sam Bash
The mean annual population increase, measured over a period of six years in the Mountain Zebra National Park, was 29%. This park hosts numerous black-backed jackal and caracal that are the major predators of young mountain reedbuck. Lamb mortalities vary from 10-80% depending on the number of predators in the area. The recommended density of mountain reedbuck to give a maximum production in an optimal habitat is 5 ha/animal with an adult mating ratio of 1 ram to 6-8 ewes. The density should be calculated using the size of optimal mountain habitat on the ranch and not its total size.
As mountain reedbuck are productive in environments that are marginal and unsuitable for live stock production, they can be used to exploit the red meat market. The carcass dresses at between 50-57 kg with a soft, finely textured and tasty meat. The best harvesting and culling period is one month after the peak of mating in June. Sub-adult rams should be culled at eight months. No more than 25% of any sub-colony should be culled as mountain reedbuck do not easily move to unfamiliar ground and are reluctant to move from highly populated areas to empty or less populated habitats. Thus culling operations are best carried out evenly across an entire ranch. Occasional stocking of the habitat with bulk grazing cattle improves the long-term quality of fodder and raises the production of mountain reedbuck.
|Mountain Reedbuck information table
|Adult body weight
|Adult shoulder height
|Age of sexual maturity
|Age of social adulthood (1st mating)
||240 - 250
|1st lamb born at
|Post maturity age (last mating)
||Year round (peak Apr-May)
|Gender ratio: Natural (all ages)
|Gender ratio: Production (all ages)
|Mating ratio: Natural (adults)
|Mating ratio: Production (adults)
|Calf birth ratio||1||1|
Absolute minimum number needed
Smallest viable population size
|Spatial Behaviour: home range
|Spatial Behaviour: territory range
|Large stock grazing unit (adult):
Dietary ratio (Grass):
0.11 per animal
(95% of diet)
|0.11 per animal
(95% of diet)
|Browsing unit (adult):
Dietary ratio: (browse):
||0.26 per animal
(5% of diet)
|0.26 per animal
(5% of diet)
|Maximum stocking load
||5 ha per animal (at 600-900 mm annual rainfall)
|Minimum habitat Size Required
|Annual population growth
|Optimal annual rainfall
|Optimal vegetation structure:
Woody canopy cover:
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