Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus)

Roan Antelope

Hippotragus equinus (Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, 1803)

Roan Antelope

Photo: Marius Saunders

Afrikaans:Bastergemsbok
German:PferdeantilopeM
French:Rouanne / Hippotrague
Swahili:Korongo
isiNdebele:Ithaka / Inoni
isiZulu:Inoni
isiXhosa:Iliza
seSotho:Hlaba-ka-lela / Kgama
seTswana:Kunkuru / Kwalata
Shona:Ndunguza / Chengu
Shangaan:Ndakadsi
Nama:!Hoa !! na ! gaebXaib

Conservation Status:

LR/cd = Lower Risk, conservation dependent.

Taxonomy

Classification

Class:Mammalia
Supercohort:LAURASIATHERIA
Cohort:FERUNGULATU
Superorder:CETARTIODACTYLA (Even toed)
Order:RUMINANTIA (Ruminants)
Superfamily:Bovoidea
Family:Bovidae (Hoofed, antlered)
Subfamily:Bovinae
Tribe:Hippotragini
Genus:Hippotragus
Species:equinus

Although roan are thought be related to the oryx or gemsbuck Oryx gazella they are actually related to the sable antelope Hippotragus niger and the extinct Cape blue buck Hippotragus leucophaeus as they share similarities in body form, facial mask and horn structure.

Six subspecies are recognized:

  • the Southern roan Hippotragus equines equinus of Zimbabwe, southern Malawi, Mozambique, eastern Botswana, Namibia and South Africa
  • the Angolan roan H.e. cottoni of northern Botswana, Angola, southern Congo and Zambia
  • the East African roan H.e. langheldi of Mozambique and Tanzania
  • the Sudanese roan H.e. bakeri of Sudan and western Ethiopia
  • the Western roan H.e. koba of the central Sahel region
  • the Northern roan H.e. sharicus of the western Sahel region

Recent genetic studies indicate that there is no sub-speciation within the South African population which brings the validity of translocation restrictions into contention. Protection through government legislation has limited the translocation and re-distribution of roan in southern Africa and severely restricted the animals’ game farming potential. This policy is still in dispute.

Description

The second largest antelope in Africa. The forequarter being larger than the hindquarter and adult cows are smaller than adult bulls by an average of 25 kg and 10 cm height. Most prominent is the long ears, 25-30 cm, which point sideways away from the head and are tipped with a tuft of reddish hairs. The black and white facemask is shared in common with the sable but differs slightly from that of the gemsbuck. The pink-greyish brown hair colour of the hide is similar to that of the gemsbuck giving rise to the Afrikaans name of “baster-gemsbok” (bastard oryx). The legs are slightly darker and reddish brown. A well developed mane on the neck.

Comparison To Man

Wildlife Ranching Roan Antelope comparison to man

Trophy

Horns are present in both sexes although the horn development of the cow is inferior to that of the bull. Trophy status in bulls is reached after seven years. The horn curves back 45° and is similar to that of the sable cow. The average adult horn length ranges from 50 to 75 cm and is heavily grooved along the majority of the length.

Habitat requirement

Roan is extremely selective in habitat preference which is a major cause of its former endangered status. Roan has been displaced from large areas of its former habitat due to the change in vegetation caused by overgrazing of domestic livestock. Habitat preferences are for open bushveld or broken woodland with a continual access to surface water and a thick, tall grass layer of predominantly sweet grass species of 50-150 cm height. Sourveld is marginal to generally unsuitable. Transitional ecotone zones between tall grassland and relatively open bushveld is preferred, especially when it is on turf-like soils derived from basalt, a volcanic rock. Unlike most other grazers, roan are not attracted to new grass growth on recently burnt veld; conversely, it has the effect of driving them away.

Distribution

Wildlife Ranching Roan Antelope distribution maps

Feeding & Nutrition

Roan are intermediate height grazers feeding above 8 cm height. Most grazing takes place during the cooler hours of the days. Browsing is restricted to mid-dry seasons and contributes 5-10% towards the dietary intake. Broad leafed forbs contribute 5% and a broad spectrum of palatable sweet grass species provides the balance. Water consumption is 9-10 litres daily.

Social structure

Roan are semi-gregarious animals that tend to keep in small groups of * Breeding herds of 5-25 individuals consisting of one dominant breeding bull, a few adult cows, a few heifers and calves from both sexes * Bachelor herds of 2-8 young sub-adult bulls of 2.5-6 years * Nomads, which are single post-mature bulls pushed out of the breeding herd by younger, dominant bulls

A adult cows sustain a hierarchy of dominance that is related to physical strength and age with the most dominant cow acting as a group leader. A hierarchy of dominance also exists in bachelor herds. Heifers appear to stay with the breeding herds and equally aged individuals form a tight, social family bond that may last for several years. Calves may form a temporary crèche along the side of a breeding herd and are often accompanied by a single, young bachelor bull. Breeding herds are stable and may sustain their structure for several years within the same home range.

Natural population structure:

  • 16% adult bulls >5 years
  • 46% adult cows >4 years
  • 10% sub-adult bachelor bulls of 2.5 - 4 years
  • 12% heifers of 2 - 4 years
  • 16% calves <2 years.

Intensive production

Roan adapt well to confined, manipulated, intensive production systems. The minimum camp size for intensive production vary from 50-200 ha depending upon habitat suitability and the degree of fodder supplementation. One adult breeding bull and 8-12 adult cows may be kept per camp.

Information Table


 Southern Roan antelope information table
Characteristic
Bull
Cow
Adult body weight
kg
250-275
225-245
Adult shoulder height
cm
130-145
125-135
Expected longevity
years
15-19
12-15
Age of sexual maturity
months
30-36
20-24
Age of social adulthood (1st mating)
years
5-6
2-2.4
Gestation
months

270-290
1st calf born at
years

3
Calving interval
months

10-11
Post maturity age (last mating)
years
10
12
Rutting season
Year Round
Calving season:
Year Round
Weaning age months
5-6
Gender ratio: Natural (all ages)
1
0.8
Gender ratio: Production (all ages)
1
2.5
Mating ratio: Natural (adults)
1
3-5
Mating ratio: Production (adults)
1
6-10
Re-establishment: Absolute minimum number needed
2
3
Re-establishment: Smallest viable population size
3
7
Spatial behaviour: Home range
ha
1500
1500
Spatial behaviour: Territory range
ha
500 mm zone surrounding breeding herd
None
Large stock grazing Unit (adult):
Dietary ratio (grass):
LSU
0.6 per animal
(85% of diet)
0.6 Per Animal
(85% Of Diet)
Browsing unit (adult):
Dietary ratio: (browse):
BU
1.45 per animal
(15% of diet)
1.45 per animal
(15% of diet)
Maximum stocking load
20 animals per 1000 ha
Minimum habitat size required
ha
1000
Annual population growth 7-25%(mean 22%)
Optimal annual rainfall
350-600 mm

Optimal vegetation structure:

Grass height:
Woody canopy cover:

 

50-150 cm

30-45%

Bibliography

 

  1. Du Plessis, SF, 1969. The past and present geographical distribution of the Perrisodactyla and Artiodactyla in Southern Africa. M.Sc. Thesis, University of Pretoria.
  2. Erb, KP, 1993. The roan antelope Hippotragus equinus, its ecology in the Waterberg Plateau Park. M.Sc. Thesis, University of Stellenbosch.
  3. Furstenburg, D, 1970-2008. Personal field notes (unpublished).
  4. Furstenburg, D, 2004. Bastergemsbok. Wild & Jag 10(6).
  5. Furstenburg, D, 1999. Bastergemsbok. S.A. Wild & Jag 5(1).
  6. Heitkönig, IMA & Owen-Smith, N, 1998. Seasonal selection of soil types and grass swards by roan antelope in a South African savanna. Afr. J. Ecol. 36:57-70.
  7. IEA (Institute of Applied Ecology), 1998. Hippotragus equinus. In: African Mammals Databank - A Databank for the Conservation and Management of the African Mammals Vol 1 & 2. European Commission Directorate, Bruxelles`
  8. IUCN, 2006. IUCN Red list of Threatened Species, Gland, Switzerland`
  9. Joubert, SCJ, 1976. The population ecology of the roan antelope Hippotragus equinus in the Kruger National Park. D.Sc. Thesis, University of Pretoria.
  10. Joubert, SCJ, 1970. A study of the social behaviour of the roan antelope, Hippotragus equinus in the Kruger National Park. M.Sc. Thesis, University of Pretoria.
  11. Kingdon, J, 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  12. Kingdon, J, 1982. East African Mammals, Vol. IIID, Bovids: An atlas of evolution in Africa. Academic Press, London.
  13. Kriek, JC, 2005. The roan antelope. In: Intensive Wildlife Production in Southern Africa, Eds. Bothma, J Du P & N Van Rooyen. Van Shaik Publishers, Pretoria.
  14. Mathee, CA & Robinson, TJ, 1999a. Cytochrome b phylogeny of the Family Bovidae: resolution within the Alcelaphini, Antilopini, Neotragini, and Tragelaphini. Mol. Phylog. Evol. 12:31-46.
  15. Mathee, CA & Robinson, TJ, 1999b. Mitochondrial DNA population structure of roan and sable antelope: implications for the translocation and conservation of the species. Mol. Ecol. 8:227-238.
  16. Nowak, R, 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World 5th edn. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  17. Perrin, MR, & Taolo, C, 1998 Home range, activity pattern and social structure of an introduced herd of roan antelope in KwaZulu-Natal, S.A. S. Afr. J. Wildl. Res. 28(2):27-32.
  18. Robinson, TJ & Harley EH, 1995. Absence of geographic chromosomal variation in the roan and sable antelope and the cytogenetics of a naturally occulting hybrid. Cytogenet. Cell. Genet. 71:363-369.
  19. Skead, CJ, 1987. Historical Mammal Incidence in the Cape Vol 1 & 2, Government Printer, Cape Town.
  20. Skinner, JD & Chimba CT, 2005. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, 3rd edn. Cambridge University Press.
  21. Smithers, RHN, 1983. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, 1st edn. University of Pretoria, CTP Book Printers, Cape Town.
  22. Ungulates of the World, 2008. http://www.ultimateungulate.com
  23. Ward, R, 2006. Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game, 27th edn. Rowland Ward Publications.
  24. Wikipedia Encyclopedia, 2008. Hippotraginae. http://en.wikipedia.org
  25. Wilson, DE, 1975. Factors affecting roan and sable antelope populations on nature reserves in the Transvaal with particular reference to ecophysiological aspects. D.Sc. Thesis, University of Pretoria.
  26. Wilson, DE & Reeder, DM, 1993. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. 2nd edn. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.
  27. Wilson, DE & Hirst, S, 1977. Ecology and factors limiting roan and sable antelope populations in South Africa. Wildlife Monogr 54:1-111.
  28. Wessels, J, 2001. The roan antelope saga. S.A. Game & Hunt 7(10):25-27.
Availability: