The red lechwe, also known as Kobus leche, is a medium-sized antelope species, closely related to the waterbuck, found in the wet areas and floodplains of south-central Africa. They are widely known for their reddish-brown coats, lyre-shaped horns, and their adaptation to marshy environments.

Red Lechwe Size and Appearance

Adult lechwe are 90 to 100 cm (35 to 39 inches) tall at the shoulder and weigh about 50 to 120 kg (110 to 265 pounds). Male lechwe are larger than their female counterparts. The color of their hide is golden brown, with white bellies.

Red lechwe are almost similar to other antelope species. The only telling difference is that red lechwe have longer hind legs, allowing them to quickly run in muddy ponds. Only male red lechwe have long, spiral horns shaped like a lyre.

Red Lechwe Habitat and Range

Red lechwe are mainly found in south-central African countries’ marshes, floodplains, and swamps. They include Botswana, Zambia, Angola, Namibia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, specifically in the Okavango Delta, Kafue Flats, and the Bangweulu Swamps.

Red Lechwe Diet and Feeding Preferences

Red lechwe are mainly grazers, meaning they eat grasses and other aquatic plants. They feed on tender shoots and leaves abundant in their marshy habitats, preferably those that grow in water or are regularly flooded. The antelope species are mostly actively looking for food in the early morning hours and late afternoon to avoid the daytime heat.

Red Lechwe Physical and Behavioral Adaptations

With their long and split hooves, red lechwe has excellent stability on muddy and slippery grounds, allowing easy navigation. They also possess swimming abilities with their powerful hind legs, majorly to thank.

Red lechwe are always vigilant, looking out for predators such as lions, hyenas, leopards, and crocodiles. They depend on their keen senses and the safety of their herds to detect and avoid threats. When threatened, the red lechwe will escape into deeper water. The antelopes rely on the mud and water to slow down their pursuers as they try to escape.

Social Structure and Behavior

Red lechwe are social, diurnal animals that gather in herds ranging from a few individuals to hundreds. Large herds gather in habitats with plenty of resources. The herds are usually of one sex; they only mix during the mating season.

Female red lechwe gather with their offspring, while the males form herds alone – they tend to stay away from water sources as they do not need as much water. On the other hand, their female counterparts are typically found close to wet areas as they rely on water more.

Reproduction and Breeding

During the mating season, usually between November and February, male red lechwe are highly territorial. Dominant ones will create and guard territories within the best feeding areas to attract females. They indulge in strength displays and fight rivals to maintain control over a territory. Male red lechwe entice females through displays like posturing, chasing, and vocalizations. Mating occurs within the male’s territory once a female is receptive.

After a gestation period of about seven to eight months, females give birth to a single calf. The majority of the calves are born between July and September. Newborns are hidden in tall grasses or reeds for the first few weeks to conceal them from predators. Mothers visit the calves from time to time to nurse and care for them. Reports of hybrids between lechwe and the waterbuck have been noted.

Subsequent calves will organize into groups of up to fifty others, most of whom will be self-sufficient from their mothers. At around six months of age, young calves are typically weaned. Male red lechwe reach reproductive maturity at about 5 years old, while their female counterparts do so after about 1.5 years – females grow quicker. They have an average lifespan of about 16 years.

How Do Red Lechwe Communicate?

Red lechwe implements a range of vocalizations to communicate with each other. This includes alarm calls to alert the herd of impending danger and other sounds used for courtship and other social interactions.

Visual signals and body language, such as the positions of the ears and tail, are used for communication within the herd.

Conclusion

Red lechwe is an antelope species native to south-central African countries. Sometimes referred to as Kobus leche, the animals are famous for their golden brown hides with white underbellies. Males have long, spiral horns that resemble lyre shapes. The antelopes primarily feed on grass and aquatic plants. Their predators include lions, crocodiles, leopards, and hyenas.

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