The Bontebok is an antelope that consists of two subspecies, the Blesbok and the endangered Bontebok. The Blesbok have a larger range whereas the Bontebok only occur in the Fynbos and Renosterveld areas of the western cape.The two antelope are difficult to tell apart, the Blesbok is a lighter shade of brown compared to the Bontebok and has a brown patch that breaks up its white blaze on its face whereas the Bontebok has a solid blaze.The name Bontebok comes from the Afrikaans word “Bont” which means multi coloured and refers to the many colors found on their coats, which include white and several shades of brown.
Bontebok were once considered to be the rarest antelope in the world, with numbers down to the 20s due to hunting by early colonists. Fortunately their numbers have since increased. This is thanks to the Van Der Byl as well as the Albertyn and van Breda families as they recognized the perilous situation of the species just before extinction in the early 1800s. In 1837 the van Der Byls set aside a portion of their farm near Bredasdorp as a reserve for 27 individuals. Neighbouring farmers then also began to breed the Bontebok. In 1931 the first Bontebok National park just outside Swellendam was proclaimed and 84 Bontebok were moved there by truck. By 1969 the numbers of Bontebok had increased to 800. Today there are around 3000 Bontebok.
The Bontebok are diurnal and their social organization consists of bachelor groups, female herds and territorial males. The Bontebok are short day seasonal breeders, mating in early autumn and the gestation period is around 8 months. Lambs are born in spring between September and November with late arrivals up to the end of February. Females become sexually mature at just over two years and have their first lamb at about three years old. Young males leave their mothers at around 12 months when she produces her next offspring.
They are most active in the early morning and late afternoon and rest during the hottest hours in a thicket. During heavy rains they seek shelter and stand facing away from the wind with their heads held low.
We are really fortunate to have 4 Bontebok ( 3 adults and a calf) at Gondwana and have them breeding successfully. We look forward to viewing our next calf in Spring, fingers crossed…..
Text: Nadine Clarke
Photos: Brenda Li