are graceful slender-legged, long-necked small antelope
found in grassland almost throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. They grow to around 92–110 cm (36 to 43 inches) in length, with a shoulder height of 50–66 cm (20 to 26 inches) and weigh an average of 12–22 kg (26 to 49 lb). They can run at speeds of up to 40–50 km/h (25–31 mph). In captivity they have a lifespan of up to 14 years.
The back and upper chest is yellow to orange-brown. The chin, throat, chest, belly and rump are white. The tail is short and bushy, the upper side black or dark brown, and the under surface white. The white crescent-shaped band of fur above the eye is a characteristic that helps to distinguish this species from other similar-looking antelope. Below each ear is a large round black glandular patch, the nostrils are prominently red, and on the sides of the face are vertical creases that house the pre-orbital glands. These glands produce an odorous secretion that is used to mark the oribi's territory. Only males grow horns, which are slender and upright, ridged to about halfway up, the ends being smooth and pointed, with some of length 19 cm (7.5 inches) being recorded.
Distribution and Habitat
Oribi are found in most countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Ranging from Senegal to west and central Ethiopia and southern Somalia, southward into eastern Kenya, across into north Botswana, Uganda, and Angola, with patchy and discontinuous distribution through Mozambique, Zimbabwe and into central and eastern South Africa.
They typically inhabit open grasslands or thinly bushed country, preferring habitats with short grasses on which to graze, interspersed with tall grass which provides cover from predators and the elements. Oribi are highly water-dependent and tend to avoid steep slopes.
During the breeding season, August to December, the male will mate with all the females who share his territory. Usually only one or two females are present in each territory. Following a gestation period
of 6 to 7 months, a single offspring is born. For the first 8 to 10 weeks the female oribi hides her young in thick grass, where it will lie motionless if approached. The mother returns periodically to suckle her offspring. Young are weaned at about four to five months. Females reach sexual maturity at 10 months, males at 14 months.
Primarily grazers, oribi prefer to eat short grasses but will browse on leaves, foliages and young shoots during the dry season. They are often seen in burnt areas after veld fires
, returning to the area to eat the fresh grass shoots. To supplement its diet, mineral licks are also used.
Oribi fall prey to numerous animals including lions
, hunting dogs
. Young are also taken by eagles
and other small carnivores.
Oribi are found on their own, in pairs or in small groups of one male with two or more females. Resting during the heat of the day, oribi are most active in the morning, late afternoon and evening. When alarmed, they produce a shrill whistle. Often they do not attempt to flee until an intruder is within a few meters, remaining motionless in the grass, relying on camouflage. If threatened they gallop away, bounding stiff-legged into the air every few strides; a behaviour known as stotting
Threats & Conservation
Oribi populations in many areas are threatened by human activities such as:
- Habitat destruction - Grasslands are lost to expanding settlement, commercial forestry, intensive commercial farming, grassland degradation due to overstocking, poor use of fire, erosion and mining.
- Illegal hunting - Trapping of the animals with snares. The hunting of oribi with dogs is a serious threat, and this method of hunting has led to the demise of many Oribi populations in South Africa.
- Inappropriate management - In many areas where Oribi populations are present, farm management practices (Impenetrable fences, poor burning practices, poor veld management, domestic dogs) do not allow Oribi to coexist. Sport hunting of oribi at unsustainable levels also threaten their survival.
Oribi occur in several protected areas and are the subject of a WWF Species Project. This project aims to track captive-bred oribi after their release into appropriate habitat to research their home ranges and their habitat preferences. The long-term aim of the project is to establish viable wild populations from captive-bred stock.
13 subspecies have been described:
- Ourebia ourebi aequatoria (Uganda)
- Ourebia ourebi cottoni (Tanzania)
- Ourebia ourebi dorcas (Chad)
- Ourebia ourebi gallarum (Central Ethiopia)
- Ourebia ourebi goslingi (North Zaire)
- Ourebia ourebi haggardi (Northern Kenya)
- Ourebia ourebi hastata (Zaire, Malawi, Zimbabwe)
- Ourebia ourebi kenyae (Kenya)
- Ourebia ourebi montana (Sudan to west Ethiopia)
- Ourebia ourebi ourebi (South Africa)
- Ourebia ourebi quadriscopa (Senegal to Nigeria)
- Ourebia ourebi rutila (Angola)
- Ourebia ourebi ugandae (Uganda)
Two of these subspecies are listed on the IUCN Red List: Haggard's oribi (Ourebia ourebi haggardi) is classified as Vulnerable (Vu C1) and the Kenya oribi (Ourebia ourebi kenyae) is classified as Extinct (EX).