|Bushbuck (Imbabala and Kéwel)|
|Species||T. scriptus and T. sylvaticus|
The bushbuck is the most widespread antelope in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is found in rain forests, montane forests, forest-savanna mosaics and bush savannaforest and woodland. Recently, genetic studies have shown that the bushbuck, is in fact a complex of two geographically and phenotypically distinct species. The most compelling evidence for the division of the bushbuck into the Kéwel (Tragelaphus scriptus) and the imbabala (Tragelaphus sylvaticus) is that both species are more closely related to other members of the tragelaphine family (the imbabala to the bongo and the sitatunga, and the kéwel to the nyala) than to each other. The bushbuck ram is regarded by sports hunters as the most dangerous medium-size antelope, as it will hide in the bush after being wounded and charge the hunter when he comes looking for it, impaling the hunter with its sharp horns.
The kéwel is distributed from Senegal and southern Mauritania across the Sahel, east to Ethiopia and Eritrea and south to Angola and the southern DRC. The imbabala occurs from the Cape in South Africa to Angola and Zambia and up the eastern part of Africa to the Ethiopia and Somalia. Both species occur sympatrically in northern Angola, southern DRC, around the Lake Albert area, southern Sudan and Ethiopia. The bushbuck will hardly ever be found in an area of close proximity to nyala as Nyala will always drive them away. Game Farmers in southern Africa found this out the hard way when they tried to introduce the two species in the same area; the bushbuck being driven away by the nyala.
The kéwel is a smaller animal, with a mainly red or yellow ground colour. It is conspicuously striped and patterned and there is little to no sexual dimorphism with respect to ground colouration. As the first of the bushbuck to be described by Pallas in 1766 as Antilope scripta from Senegal, it retains the original species name for bushbuck. Its common name, Kéwel (Wronski and Moodley, 2009), is taken from the Wolof language spoken in Senegal. As most studies of bushbuck have focused on the imbabala, very little is known about the biology of the kéwel, except for what can be gleaned from museum specimens and hunting trophies.
The imbabala is larger than the kéwel and its colouration varies greatly with geography and habitat type. Only the most genetically ancient of the imbabala populations (from Angola, Zambia, southern DRC, Botswana and northern Zimbabwe) bears any significant striping. And even in these populations the horizontal stripe, if present at all, is broken up into a series of spots. Thick horizontal striping as in the léwel never occurs. In general, patterning in the imbabala reduces with distance away from south-central Africa. Ground colouration is also more variable than in the kéwel, ranging from yellow to red-brown, brown, olive to almost black. Mountain forms of the imbabala in the Gregory Rift Highlands, Mount Elgon, the Imatong Mountains and the Ethiopian Highlands all appear larger, with very dark ground colour and almost no patterning. Much of the variation in ground colouration, especially deviations from red-brown, occurs mainly in males. The first Latin name that can be attributed to the imbabala was Antilope sylvatica after Sparrman (1780) described from the Cape Colony. Its common name, imbabala (Wronski and Moodley, 2009), is taken from the Xhosa language spoken in that part of South Africa. Much of the scientific as well as public interest literature about bushbuck to be found on the internet, pertain only to the imbabala, not the kéwel. As in the rest of the text below.
Bushbuck stand about 90 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh from 45 to 80 kilograms (depending on sex). Bushbuck have a light brown coat, with up to seven white stripes and white splotches on the sides. The white patches are usually geometrically shaped and on the most mobile parts of their body such as the ears, chin, tail, legs and neck. The muzzle is also white and horns are found only on the males and they can reach over half a metre with only one twist. At 10 months old, young males sprout horns that are particularly twisted and at maturity form the first loop of a spiral.
Bushbuck mainly browse but supplement their diet with any other plant matter they can reach. Bushbuck are active around 24 hours a day but tend to be nocturnal near human habitations. Bushbuck tend to be solitary, though some live in pairs. All bushbuck live within a "home" area they will not normally leave this area, which is usually around 50 000 square metres on the savannah and much larger in the forest. These areas usually overlap other bushbuck home areas. Bushbuck are basically solitary animals and the mature males go out of their way to stay away from each other. Usually bushbuck are most active during early morning and part of the night, therefore are almost entirely nocturnal in areas where they are unlikely to be disturbed.