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Focus on the Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)

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Citation: Furstenburg, D. 2009. Focus on the kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros). S A Hunter 03026:55-59.
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Deon Furstenburg
Kudu “Greater Kudu”
Tragelaphus strepsiceros (Pallas, 1766)
Afrikaans Koedoe
German Kudu
French Koudou
Swahili Tandala
isiNdebele Ibhalabhala
isiZulu Umgankla / Igogo
isiXhosa Igudi
seSotho Tholo
seTswana Tholo
Shona Nhoro
Shangaan Hlongo
Nama Xaib
Khoikhoi Ku::du
Photo: Johan Van der Vyver, adult greater kudu
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IUCN Conservation Status:
Lower Risk, conservation dependent (LR/cd)
The kudu with its magnificent spiralled horns is one of Africa’s most gracious and handsome
antelope. Encounters with them are the stuff of hunters’ tales as they linger over the campfire
at night! It is the only indigenous antelope at present enlarging its distribution naturally.
Kudu first became known through Kolbe’s book on “De Kaap de Goede Hoop” in 1727. In
1764 it was known as “Le Condoma Coësdoës” after Buffon’s sightings in the Albany
(Grahamstown) district in the Eastern Cape. Evidence exists for the occurrence of “koo-doos”
in the city of Cape Town at the time of European colonization.
Although present across more than half of South Africa, the kudu received little attention from
biologists until the study of Allan-Rowlandson in the Andries Vosloo Kudu Reserve on the Great
Fish River near Grahamstown in the 1970’s. Like the impala Aepyceros melampus, the kudu
has long been recognized as a source of biltong and it is only more recently that hunting kudu
has become an outdoor adventure for stressed city businessmen. It has become a popular
luxury and is the major source of income for many landowners. Only in the mid 1990’s has
the increased trade value of rare species such as the sable antelope Hippotragus niger,
tsessebe Damaliscus lunatus, nyala Tragelaphus angasii and buffalo Syncerus caffer begun
to replace the economic value of the kudu.
Taxonomy Kingdom: ANIMALIA
Superfamily: BOVOIDEA
Subfamily: Bovinae
Tribe: Tragelaphini
Genus: Tragelaphus
Species: strepsiceros
Kudu were first described from a specimen from the Kammiesberg, southern Namaqualand in
the Cape of Good Hope and were classified in the genus Tragelaphus. Its name originates
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from the Hottentot or Khoi-khoi word “ku::du”, Tragos the Greek for a he-goat and elaphos for
a deer. The species name of the greater kudu originates from strephis, the Greek for twisting,
and keras for animal horn and that of the lesser kudu from imberbis the Latin for unbearded, a
reference to the absence of a mane on the throat.
There are two species and three subspecies
Tragelaphus imberbis the lesser kudu
Tragelaphus strepsiceros the greater kudu
o T.s. strepsiceros the southern greater kudu
o T.s. bea the East African greater kudu
o T.s. cottoni the northern greater kudu
Other closely related species are
Tragelaphus spekei the sitatunga
T. eurycerus the bongo
T. angasii the nyala
T. buxtoni the mountain nyala
T. scriptus the bushbuck
T. oryx the eland.
Of these only the southern greater kudu, the nyala, the eland and the bushbuck occur naturally
in the southern sub-region of Africa.
In former times the distribution of kudu extended across Europe and Asia, their fossilised
remains being found in Pliocene and Pleistocene deposits. This indicates that the kudu may
have originated in the northern hemisphere and then only recently spread into Africa with the
African savannah or miombo-biosphere being their recent resting place. This is the most likely
explanation for the present expanding distribution. Kudu are thus still actively developing as
a species as they continuously adapt to new environments and habitats. Evidence of this
changing distribution can be seen in its spreading from
the xerophytic valley bushveld north of Grahamstown into the mesophytic valley bushveld
surrounding Bathurst, a distance of more than 50 km. In 1991 kudu were still unknown in
the area whereas today they roam freely
the xerophytic valley bushveld in the Sapkamma region to the north of Uitenhage to the
Baviaanskloof wilderness area some 80 km further south. In the mid 1970’s kudu were
unknown in this area
the false thornveld in the Cradock/Tarkastad and Graaff-Reinet regions in the early 1990’s
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to the hills in the Noupoort/Brulberg area 120 km further north by 2002
It is of crucial importance that this natural spreading should not be inhibited by governmental
translocation legislation, as it is a natural process of co-evolution with both habitat and animal
changing in relation to global warming.
In the past, the distribution of kudu in South Africa included the entire country north of the
Orange River excluding the Free State, the Lesotho Highlands and the central highveld
grassland of Gauteng and Mpumalanga. It also included Namaqualand, most of the Karoo
regions including Laingsburg, Beaufort West and Murraysburg, the southern coastal regions
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including the outskirts of the Tsitsikamma, major parts of the Eastern Cape (excluding the
former Transkei) and most of KwaZulu-Natal.
During the 1700’s and 1800’s the Eastern Cape kudu became isolated from the rest of South
Africa’s populations as a result of human settlement and retreated to the thickets of the valley
bushveld areas of the Sundays and Great Fish River valleys. At present this population is
managed as a sub-population that differs in size and trophy quality. This is a mistake, as a
genetically new sub-species is being created artificially. The kudu distribution is rapidly
reaching its former distribution due to the expansion of the game industry over the past two
decades. The present man-made gap between the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape
populations has become less than 200 km and is still shrinking. If left to natural environmental
dynamics, the two sub-populations should soon re-unite.
The shoulder height of adult cows ranges from 119-141 cm (average 134 cm) and of bulls from
128-152 cm (no average as the size depends upon the post-mature age). Adult bulls of the
greater kudu are generally 35% taller than the lesser kudu with a shoulder height of 98 cm and
double the body mass (170-300 kg vs 104 kg).
Due to differences in the climate and forage of the local habitat, kudu from the Eastern Cape
are markedly smaller than elsewhere in southern Africa. In the Eastern Cape population the
mass for 220 adult cows >3 years varies between 110 and 210 kg with a mean of 136.8 kg
compared to 155 kg for those in the eastern lowveld of the Kruger National Park.
The maximum mass for cows is reached at 4-5 years and then decreases slightly with age.
Bulls do not reach their maximum body size before the age of 12 years. After social maturity
is reached at four years, bulls continue to grow. The maximum body size/mass of 260-315 kg
is reached only at the end of their natural lifespan of between 12-16 years (280 animals.
As a result of socio-economic pressure on the southern African game industry, the natural life
span of kudu bulls has been reduced to an average of 9-11 years. This suggests that the
present southern African kudu population is becoming younger on average and that the number
of post-mature kudu is shrinking. Adult cows are totally dependent upon natural forage and
seldom live to reach the age of nine years. The majority of cows die at 6-8 years when their
body condition is declining and they are exposed to prolonged droughts with intermittent wet,
cold spells. The usual cause of death is hypothermia and pneumonia combined with the loss
of condition.
Both sexes of the greater kudu have a mane that continues as a whitish dorsal crest. The
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lesser kudu does not have a mane. The greater kudu has 9-10 vertical white stripes
descending from the mane on each side of the body flank, the eastern African greater kudu 6-
8 and the northern greater kudu, 4-7. The colour of the coat differs, being a pale greyish colour
in the southern greater kudu, a comparatively richer colour in the eastern African greater kudu
and much paler in the northern greater kudu.
After eight years the coat colour of bulls becomes greyish-blue and their hair becomes dull and
less dense. The hair of the adult cow becomes dull and begins to weather away after five
years, hairless patches appearing after 6-7 years.
The underside of the short, furry, bushy tail is outstandingly white and flashes white when the
animal is in flight. This serves as a signal for other members of the group to flee with their
leader. The ears are large and mobile with a distinct white stripe on the inner edge. It is often
only the slightest flick of the white-lined ear that gives the animal’s presence away. Kudu are
cryptically camouflaged and often only an experienced eye can spot them.
The spoor of a kudu is a slightly elongated, double-hoofed print with a sharp-pointed front and
a rounded rear. The front spoor is slightly larger (5-6 x 3-4 cm) than the hind (4.5-5.5 x 3-4
cm). After eight years the spoor of mature bulls becomes more rounded at the base and less
sharp at the end, the print size increasing with age up to a maximum of 9x5 cm.
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Information table
Greater Kudu information table
Characteristic Bull Cow
Adult body weight kg 174 – 315
(avg. 235)
110 – 210
(avg. 155)
Adult shoulder height cm 128 – 152 119 – 141
Sexual maturity age months 21 – 24 15 – 19
Social maturity age (1st mating) years 5 3
Gestation period days 250 – 260
1st Calf born at age years 3.8 – 4.5
Calving interval months 10 – 15
Post maturity age (last mating) years 9 9
Rutting season Apr – Jul
Calving season Dec – may
Weaning age days 135 – 165
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Gender ratio: entire population (natural) 1 1,1
Gender ratio: entire population (production) 1 1,6
Mating ratio: adults (natural) 1 1,4 – 1,8
Mating ratio: adults (production) 1 2,5 – 4,2
Calf birth ratio 1,1 (52%) 1 (48%)
Maximum lifespan years 12 – 16 7 – 9
Home range ha 90 – 600 90 – 600
Territory range ha None None
Large stock grazing unit (adult) LSU 0,45 per animal
(12% of diet)
0,42 per animal
(12% of diet)
Browsing unit (adult) BU 1,1 per animal
(88% of diet)
1,0 per animal
(88% of diet)
Maximum stocking load 80 animals per 1 000 ha (at 350 – 450 mm rain)
Minimum habitat size required ha 300
Annual population growth 13 28% (mean 19%)
The magnificent horns are spread in beautiful open spirals. There is no scientific proof for
claims that narrow horns relate to bush dwelling or montane kudu and wide horns to plains
kudu, as the two forms are found in both habitats. However, narrow-horned kudu are more
mobile in thickets and are seen moving more frequently in thicker vegetation, whereas a wide-
horned kudu tends to conceal itself rather than to move. The horns of a kudu are constructed
in such away as to give the animal constant eye contact with the tips.
Horns are borne by males alone and although cows occasionally have horns they are under
sized or deformed. In 1888 FC Selous recorded a 37 inch female trophy with a 3.5”
circumference and a 21.875” tip to tip width.
In general, the Rowland Ward minimum qualifying trophy quality is only reached after seven
years, the quality increasing with the depth of the spiral. The horn quality can be easily
estimated by looking from tip to base along the inside core; the greater the diameter of the
spiral, the better the quality.
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Southern Greater Kudu trophy records
Rowland Ward (XXVII edition 2006):
Minimum qualifying value = 537/8" (136.84cm) Measuring method 8
Inch cm Locality Year Source
1st 737/8" 187.64 Mozambique 1963 C. Caldresi
2nd 725/8" 184.47 Hochfeld, Namibia 2001 J. Rohrer
3rd 691/4" 175.58 Lydenburg, Mpumalanga, RSA. 1916 P.G. Rous
4th 687/8" 174.94 Marble Hall, Mpumalanga, RSA 1998 N. Coetzee
5th 683/8" 173.67 Soutpansberg, Limpopo, RSA 2005 G.M.Y. Al-Hamad
6th 681/4" 173.04 Alldays, Limpopo, RSA 2002 D. Tallman
Eastern Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros bea); Minimum qualifying value = 52"
1st 631/2" 152.08 Tanzania (measured along outer line,
not along spiral curve)
1921 H. Fowler
Northern Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros cottoni); Minimum qualifying value = 427/8"
1st 591/2" 152.08 Eritrea (measured along outer line, not
along spiral curve)
1927 C. Hankey
Safari Club International S.C.I.:
Minimum qualifying value = 121" (307.34 cm) Measuring method 5
1st 1553/8" 394.65 1995 S. Aghayan
Confederation of Hunters Associations of South Africa CHASA:
Minimum qualifying value = 53" (134.62 cm) Measuring method (B)
1st 6711/16" 171.93 Marble Hall, Limpopo, RSA 1996 H. Harmse
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Habitat requirement
Kudu are widespread in the savannahs of eastern and southern Africa, ranging from Sudan
and Ethiopia in the north, to the Western and Eastern Cape in the south. Their wide
distribution indicates a high adaptability but their use of a specific habitat is reliant on the
density of woody plants, with tree and shrub density being the most critical parameter
governing their choice of habitat. Kudu are seldom found in completely open country although
they may be temporarily attracted to it by forage such as dicot broadleaf forbs and dwarf
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succulents. Trees and shrubs provide the main fodder resource as well as a refuge against
predation and protection against the cold.
It is essential that the habitat of kudu contains a high diversity of fodder plants, especially trees
and shrubs, as they do not thrive on homogenous vegetation of low diversity. During the late
1970’s and early 1980’s there were severe mortalities in the north-western bushveld areas of
the Limpopo and North-West provinces due to a high density of animals being kept on recently
enclosed land with a low diversity of woody vegetation consisting of homogenous Combretum
veld. These deaths were due to a gradual build-up of secondary metabolites (condensed
tannin) in the Combretum trees as well as a limited access to alternative fodder species. This
problem could have been avoided by lowering the kudu stocking density with efficient, pro-
active management and/or the enlargement of the land units to include more habitat variety.
Kudu prefer broken bushveld or woodland of deciduous plants with scattered thicket bush
clumps for refuge. Highly dense coastal dune thickets and evergreen forests are totally
avoided. In areas dominated by karroid vegetation or grassland, the presence of well-wooded
drainage lines and nearby mountain slopes and kloofs permits the natural expansion of kudu.
Kudu are highly sensitive to cold spells or sudden temperature changes and will move away
from lower lying areas to warmer hill slopes on cold winter nights. They also tend to move
between the aspects of topographic slopes in order to avoid prevailing winds. During hot
sunny days kudu will keep close to the shade of trees and on cold winter days stay in thicket
High mortalities are common when sudden wet, cold spells occur, especially during periods of
drought. Such mortalities were widespread in the Karoo and Eastern Cape in 1979, 1983,
1991-’92, 1996 and 2002, most deaths being adult cows aged over six years. In 1983, almost
half of the Eastern Cape kudu population died and in 1991-’92, almost 30%. The kudu
population in the Eastern Cape varied from 49 000 in 1965, to 47 000 in 1974, to a present
estimate of 120 000.
Kudu are naturally diurnal but human disturbance has forced them to become predominantly
nocturnal. During daylight hours they take refuge in closed woodland and bush thickets but in
late afternoon they move out to open broken woodland or karroid dwarf succulent plains to
feed, returning to woodland by dawn. If undisturbed they will roam for most of the daylight
Like humans, kudu display individual differences in behaviour when threatened. This makes
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them unique among the antelope species. The author noted the following behavioural
patterns of radio-collared kudu bulls in the Eastern Cape between 1994 and 2002
During culling operations, some adult bulls fled rapidly, covering a distance of 7-9 km within
20 minutes of approach by human beaters. They only returned to the home range after
3-80 days, depending on the season and the degree of disturbance
Some bulls kept a safe distance of 300-500m in front of the beaters and moved slowly in a
circle on the periphery of their home range to end safely behind the beaters
Other bulls relied on their cryptic camouflage and hid until the beaters had passed. They
then fled back to the periphery of their home range to where the beaters’ drive had started
Individuals maintained identical behaviour patterns for the full length of the study of 6-8 years.
Other groups also showed specific behaviour patterns namely
Family breeding herds generally fled in front of the approaching danger but not as rapidly
as the bulls and for a shorter distance of 50-300 m. They sometimes crossed 3-4
neighbouring home ranges but unlike the bulls, returned immediately the danger was over
Non-breeding cows and sub-adults avoided detection by circling noiselessly in short zigzag
movements and kept within the perimeters of their home ranges
Post-mature bulls hid, remaining motionless for an hour or two after the danger ended and
then gently began to move again
Feeding & Nutrition
Kudu are predominantly non-selective bulk browsers, feeding on leaves, shoots, pods or fruit
of a wide range of shrubs, trees, dicot forbs and succulents. As they are exposed to a variety
of habitats in their wide distribution range their diet differs greatly in terms of plant species
composition and there are virtually no plant species that are completely avoided. The intake
of a plant species depends upon the season and the prevailing veld condition. Kudu need a
selection of vegetation that includes
palatable, deciduous, woody plants as a dietary staple during the wet season
soft-stemmed, dicot broadleaf forbs and the new growth of woody foliage year round,
particularly during the lactation phase of cows
relatively palatable evergreen or late deciduous, woody plant foliage during the dry season
protein rich fruits and pods in the dry season
woody plants that produce new foliage in advance of the first rains. This bridges the
critical transitional phase at the end of the dry season
relatively unpalatable, evergreen woody plants that can be used as a last resort when all
other food reserves are depleted during extreme droughts, e.g. noors (a type of succulent
cactus) in the Eastern Cape xerophytic valley bushveld. An indication that the veld
condition is in its last stage of depletion is that the tips of noors shoots are eaten
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In the Eastern Cape valley bushveld the kudu diet consists of 5-12% grass, 15-18% dicot broad
leaf forbs and 70-80% tree and shrub browse. The forb to browse ratio differs greatly with
varying rainfalls and seasons. Studies in the northern savannah mixed bushveld indicated a
diet of 18% grass, 21% forbs and 61% browse.
Boomker showed that in the eastern lowveld, an adult, non-lactating kudu of 210 kg consumes
3.7 kg dried plant material per day in a dry winter and 5 kg per day in a wet summer. Thus
kudu are clearly not concentrate feeders, but are rather non-selective browsers consuming
large quantities of roughage material. There is no particular selection of young fast-fermenting
plant parts, the mean bite size measuring 3.7-4.5 cm from both old and young twig ends. Kudu
switch from foregut fermentation in a wet summer, to hindgut in a dry winter in order to
overcome the natural decline in nutritional quality, the hindgut having a greater ability to digest
Non-lactating cows require 27-33 MJ energy per day compared to 47 MJ for lactating cows.
A dietary protein intake of 9-11% and 19-23% fibre should be maintained throughout the year.
Supplementation of the diet during drought should not rely on concentrate mixture alone but
should be based on good quality lucerne in order to supply the necessary fibre. Kudu can
adapt to a gentle, slow change of climate and veld condition but are intolerant of rapid changes
in food quality.
In the Eastern Cape valley bushveld, 40-60% of adult bulls’ browsing takes place between 145-
170 cm above ground level and 40-60% of adult cows’, between135-155 cm.
A daily water intake of 7-9 litres is required for kudu in the warmer northern and western
distribution ranges. In the succulent valley bushveld of the Eastern Cape kudu rarely drink
due to the high water content of their diet.
Territory & Home range
Studies in the Eastern Cape and elsewhere in Africa have shown that kudu is not migratory or
territorial but inhabits a static home range shared by individuals of both sexes. Every
individual has a home range; this can overlap others by as much as 80%. The core of the
home range is permanent but its total area and size varies with veld condition and season.
The mean home range size is 90-350 ha during wet summer periods and may expand to 600
ha during droughts.
Kudu tend to stay in the area of their birth. If translocated within 14 months of birth a youngster
will settle, but after 14 months the birth environment becomes imprinted on its brain and it will
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try to return at all cost. For example Young experimental kudu collared in the Great Fish River
valley in 1974, were harvested by landowners in the same region some 12-14 years later. A
year-old male strangled in a live stock fence in the Kirkwood area was marked by drilling a hole
through its horn. This animal was shot as an adult nine years later in the same stock camp.
These animals remained in their areas despite a lack of restraining game fences.
If disturbed, kudu flee and either return immediately or establish a temporary, additional home
range up to 11 km away. They return to their original home range within 3-90 days and will
repeatedly return to the same temporary home range every time they are disturbed.
A study of 148 collared kudu in the Eastern Cape showed neither migratory behaviour nor
movement between home ranges for feeding purposes. Sub-adult bulls reaching social
maturity are occasionally forced out of the herd by older, mature bulls and leave to search for
a new range. These bulls are mostly responsible for the expansion of the kudus’ distribution
range as they travel for distances of up to 80 km.
During the rutting season the socially mature bulls may leave their home ranges and become
nomadic in a larger area associated with female breeding herds of adjacent home ranges.
After the rut they return to their former range. Kudu have a daily movement of between 1.5
and 3 km during wet summer months and up to 8 km in dry winter periods.
Social structure
Family bonding is weak and group structures are unstable as members constantly drift between
adjacent family breeding groups. The mean number of groups overlapping and sharing the
same home range area is eight and the mean family group size 4.5, the latter size being
influenced by the degree of human interference. With the least disturbance, groups of a
maximum size of 20-35 are formed (mean 8), and with high interference are reduced to a mean
of 2.8. The group size increases during rut and in the peak calving season. During droughts
temporary gatherings of up to 60 animals can be found on open “brak”-veld areas that contain
a high level of mineral salts. This allows the kudu to supplement their diet nutrients.
The social structure comprises of
amily breeding groups of 1-2 socially mature bulls, 2-4 adult cows and 1-3 youngsters
bachelor groups of 2-6 sub-adult bulls of 2-5 years
socially mature male groups of 2-4 bulls of 5-8 years
post-mature, non-breeding male groups of 2-6 bulls over eight years
The natural population structure is
47% socially mature adult cows aged 3-9 years
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7% second year heifers aged >2-3 years
7% first-year heifers aged >1-2 years
18% socially mature adult bulls aged 2<8 years
4% post-mature trophy bulls of 8 years and older
9% male calves aged <1 year
8% female calves aged <1 year
The rut takes place from May to early July and includes 70-80% of all mating. During this time
1-2 socially mature bulls accompany each family group. In good rainfall years the rutting
period can expand to almost a full year.
Bulls reach sexual maturity at 22 months, social maturity at 4.5 years, post-maturity at 9-10
years and have an expected lifespan of 12-16 years. Outside of the rutting season the mating
bulls join mature bull groups, but will frequently leave to join family groups for a short period.
Females reach sexual maturity at 18 months and social maturity (age at first mating) at 3 years.
Thus second year heifers of 25-36 months are sexually mature but socially immature. Second
year heifers might mate during an abnormally good rainfall year but more usually only begin to
mate at 3 years. Bulls begin mating at an average age of 4.5 years. Periodic flushes of
animals with the same age occur in populations as a result of an increased growth rate from
19-28% during good rainfall years.
Gestation lasts for an average of 8.5 months and in a good year, 94% of calves are born
between late December and early March. However, in dry years only 60% are born during
this period. Sub-adult males leave the family groups at 2-3.5 years age and join bachelor
groups. Females tend to remain together in family groups for life but periodically exchange
groups. The expected lifespan for females is 7-9 years; they do not become post-mature but
keep breeding until death.
Eastern Cape kudu cows show a fecundity of 93-96%, with a mean birth rate of 84%. Only
62% of the calves survive to be weaned. Adult mortalities are generally 10-15%.
This gives a population with a natural social structure an annual long-term population growth
rate of 19-21% in a normal year. However, the growth rate can range from 13% in drought
years, to 28% in good rainfall years. The long-term production rate in the Kruger National
Park is 14.8%.
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Optimal production is attained with a mating sex ratio of one socially mature bull (>5 years) to
four socially mature cows (>3 years). Females must be cropped to maintain the adult sex ratio
of 1:4 required for achieving and sustaining productivity. Calves are normally born at a ratio
of 1.1 male to 1 female and require cropping at a proportion of 65% males to 35% females in
order to achieve the desired adult sex ratio of 1:4.
The optimum cropping ratio for an entire kudu population is a maximum of 19% of the total
number of individuals divided as follows
61% sub-adult males of aged 2-3 years
4% trophy bulls aged >8 years
35% females aged >6 years
The maternal instinct of kudu cows is poor, as mothers do not seek refuge for their calves,
forcing the calves to find their own cover. The cow returns for suckling 2-4 times daily but if
disturbed may abandon the calf for a day or two. This results in high calf mortalities, especially
during cold spells. Calves cannot jump over internal small-stock, netted fencing of 1.2 m until
they are seven months old and are abandoned when mothers are disturbed, jump the fence
and move away.
Sustainable kudu stocking rates are
40 ha/kudu (25 kudu/1 000 ha) in mixed bushveld at Nylsvley, Limpopo and in the Kruger
National Park
33 ha/kudu (30 kudu/1 000 ha) in dry mopane bushveld, increasing to 10 ha/kudu in a good
rainfall year of >380 mm
In the Eastern Cape valley bushveld, 15 ha/kudu (67 kudu/1 000 ha) at 300-340 mm
rainfall, 10 ha/kudu (100 kudu/1 000 ha) at 340-360 mm rain, 8 ha/kudu (125 kudu/1 000
ha) at 360-400 mm rain and 4 ha/kudu (250 kudu/1 000 ha) at >470 mm rain
Kudu can be stocked at 9-15 ha per animal or 70-110 kudu per 1 000 ha in an area where,
counting every six small plants (<80 cm diameter) as one, there is a density of 1 600-3 000
edible shrubs and trees per hectare. The latter must have a foliage canopy of between 50
and 170 cm feeding height and maintain >30% of their foliage throughout the year.
Kudu carcasses dress at 54-57% (86-172 kg for an adult kudu depending on age and gender).
The time for cropping or hunting having the least negative impact on production is August to
September for cows and September to December for bulls. May to July is the rutting and
lactating season and no hunting should be allowed. After September most adult cows are
more than 3.5 months pregnant and hunting is not recommended.
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Socking density benchmark for Greater Kudu, in relation to annual rainfall, and to tree/shrub
density; expressed as number of hectare (ha) needed per animal (Furstenburg, 2002)
Foliage per
Number of ha needed per kudu (related to tree/shrub density per
2 500
2 000
1 500
1 300 plants/
800 plants/
120 10 – 20 12.0 13.7 13.7 15.4 29.4
170 15 – 30 11.8 13.3 13.3 14.3 28.6
220 20 – 40 11.1 12.5 12.8 13.3 27.0
270 30 – 50 10.0 11.1 11.8 12.5 20.7
310 40 – 60 9.1 10.0 10.0 11.1 16.7
340 45 – 70 7.7 9.1 9.1 10.5 14.3
360 55 – 80 6.7 8.3 8.3 10.0 12.5
380 60 – 85 5.3 7.4 7.4 8.7 11.1
410 70 – 90 4.0 5.3 6.3 7.7 10.0
450 75 – 95 2.5 5.0 5.0 5.9 8.3
500 80 – 100 2.0 3.3 3.3 4.0 7.4
550 90 – 100 1.7 2.2 2.5 2.5 6.7
600 100 1.3 1.7 2.0 2.0 5.0
Average annual Greater Kudu population growth rate (%), in relation to annual rainfall
(Furstenburg, 2002)
% Calves born per
number of adult cows
% Mortality
(0-12 months age)
% Population growth
per annum
0 0 100 0
50 0 100 0
100 2 87 0
150 7 45 0
200 20 25 1
250 45 17 5
300 67 13 11
350 79 11 18
400 85 9.5 23
450 89 8 26
500 90 6 27.5
Page 18 of 22
550 90 5 28
600 90 4 28.5
650 90 3 28.5
700 90 2 28.5
Kudu are highly susceptive to rinderpest, anthrax, Coryne bacterium, foot and mouth disease,
tuberculosis, pneumonia (hypothermia), cytauxzoönosis, mange and rabies. Hartwater rarely
occurs. A healthy kudu can tolerate a tick load of up to 5 000 mature ticks per animal. Tick
loads may increase tenfold when animals come under nutritional stress and will have major
negative effects on body condition.
Mean age related growth rate for the Greater Kudu (460 eastern Cape Kudu carcasses from
1989 to 1998, Furstenburg, 2002)
Live body mass (kg) Horn length (bull)
Cow Bull (mm) (Inch)
Birth 13 13 0 0
6 months 50 60 5 – 80 0,2 – 3
1 year 90 95 51 – 432 2 – 17
1,5 years 105 120 178 – 635 7 – 25
2 years 120 140 483 – 787 19 – 31
2.5 years 125 160 635 – 889 25 – 35
3 years 130 165 838 – 991 33 – 39
4 years 140 180 1041 – 1143 41 – 45
5 years 145 205 1143 – 1245 45 – 49
6 years 138 220 1245 – 1295 49 – 51
7 years 130 240 1270 – 1346 50 – 53
8 years 130 250 1295 – 1372 51 – 54
9 years 128 260 1346 – 1372 53 – 54
10 years 125 265 1346 – 1397 53 – 55
11 years 120 270 1372 – 1397 54 – 55
12 years ---- 275 1372 – 1410 54 – 55.5
13 years ---- 280 1397 – 1422 55 – 56
Page 19 of 22
Page 20 of 22
Trend in mean annual Kudu prices
(Data from: Vleissentraal; T. Eloff, Univ . Potchefstroom; Cloete & Taljaard, Univ . Free State)
Graeter Kudu (SA Rand)
Allen-Rowlandson, TS, 1980. The social and spatial organization of the greater kudu in the Andries Vosloo Kudu
Reserve. M.Sc. Thesis, Rhodes Univ.
Boomker, EA, 1987. Fermentation and digestion in the kudu. D.Sc. Thesis, Univ. of Pretoria.
Du Plessis, SF, 1969. The past and present geographical distribution of the Perrisodactyla and Artiodactyla in
Southern Africa. M.Sc. Thesis, Univ. of Pretoria.
Furstenburg, D, 2000. Integrated kudu, duiker, bushbuck and boer goat production systems in Valley Bushveld:
ecological interactions, processes & constraints. Pelea 19:134-141.
Furstenburg, D, 2002. Kudu. Game & Hunt 8(3).
Furstenburg, D, 2005. The Kudu. In: Intensive Wildlife Production in Southern Africa, Eds. Bothma, J Du P & N
Van Rooyen. Van Shaik Publishers, Pretoria.
IEA (Institute of Applied Ecology), 1998. Tragelaphus. In: African Mammals Databank - A Databank for the
Conservation and Management of the African Mammals, Vol 1 & 2. European Commission Directorate,
IUCN, 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Gland, Switzerland.
Kingdon, J, 1989. East African Mammals; An atlas of evolution in Africa Bovids, Vol 111D, Univ. of Chicago
Press, Chicago.
Novellie, PA, 1983. Feeding ecology of the kudu in the Kruger Nationasl Park. D.Sc. Thesis, Univ. of Pretoria.
Nowak, RM, 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World 6th edn. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Owen-Smith, RN, 1990. Demography of a large herbivore, the greater kudu in relation to rainfall. J. Anim. Ecol.
Page 21 of 22
Owen-Smith, RN, 1994. Foraging responses of kudu to seasonal changes in food resources: elasticity in
constraints. Ecology 75:1050-1062.
Simpson, CD, 1966. Tooth eruption, growth and ageing criteria in greater kudu. Anoldia 2:1-12.
Simpson, CD, 1968. Reproduction and population structure in greater kudu in Rhodesia. J. Wildl. Mgmt. 32:149-
Simpson, CD, 1972. Some characteristics of tragelaphine horn growth and their relationship to age in grearter
kudu and bushbuck. J. Sth. Afr. Wildl. Mgmt. Ass. 2:1-8.
Simpson, CD, 1972. An evaluation of seasonal movement in greater kudu populations in three localities in South
Africa. Zool. Afr. 7:197-205.
Skead, CJ, 1987. Historical Mammal Incidence in the Cape. Vol 1 & 2, Government Printer, Cape Town.
Skinner, JD, & Chimba CT, 2005. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, 3rd edn. Cambridge University
Press, Cambridge.
Smithers, RHN, 1983. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, 1st edn. University of Pretoria, CTP Book
Printers, Cape Town.
Van Hoven, W, 1991. Mortalities in kudu populations related to chemical defence in trees. J. Afr. Zool. 105:141-
Ward, R, 2006. Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game, 27th edn. Rowland Ward Publications, Johannesburg.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia, 2008. Aepyceros melampus.
Wilson, DE & Reeder, DM, 1993. Mammal Species of the World, 2nd edn. Smithsonian Institution Press,
Photo: Deon Furstenburg, adult greater kudu
Page 22 of 22
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
The Eastern Cape Valley Bushveld is known for being vulnerable to degradation and desertification due to intensive overgrazing and extensive pastoralism. Little evidence exists for the recovery of severely degraded land. In the absence of a sustainable grass layer, browse forms the production basis. This nine year study revealed six functional eco-process concepts which all contribute to an understanding and explanation for the ongoing deterioration trend of the Valley Bushveld. The core of the system is that it was proven to be event driven resulting in numerous variation in veld condition and potential forage supply to animals. The concepts: Carrying capacity is a function of geology and topography; Veld condition is a function of browsing regime; Browse production is a function of climatical events; Veld condition is a function of stratified animal browsing; Veld condition is a function of stocking intensity rather than stocking rate; Animal feeding behaviour vs social interaction.
Abnormally high levels of tannin in dietary leaves were the result of high browsing pressure and caused die-offs until normal population densities were restored. -from Author
Data from 289 greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), shot during tsetse control game elimination in Rhodesia, established some facts about the biology of this species. Reproductive data are analyzed to give age-specific birth rates, which show productivity to peak in middle-aged females, and to give the status each month of pregnant, lactating, and non-breeding animals. The breeding season is restricted, calves being born in February-March, and lactation lasts about 6 months, ceasing shortly after the rut in July. The variation in hunter success is associated with the availability of kudu, influenced by the seasonal vertical movements of animals in the study area; altitudinal change is more marked in females. Despite apparent sexual parity at birth, a disparity in favor of males was found among subadults, and became more pronounced with age. The average herd size for each month relates to the seasonal biology of kudu, and the two periods of herd aggregation coincide with the calving and rut seasons.
Foraging behavior provides the mechanistic link between species performance and food resources in the environment. I document the foraging responses of a browsing ruminant, the kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), to changes in food abundance and quality over the seasonal cycle and interpret the results in the context of optimal foraging theory. The study was carried out on hand-reared but free-ranging animals in a savanna region with summer wet season and winter dry season in Transvaal, South Africa. During the dry season, kudus expanded their diet to include evergreen and unpalatable deciduous woody species neglected during the wet season. The acceptability rating of woody plants was correlated with food value expressed in terms of a protein-condensed tannin index, relative to handling time during ingestion or digestion. However, dietary expansion alone was inadequate to satisfy the daily energy requirement during this period. The animals also increased the fraction of trees of palatable species that was accepted for feeding, extended feeding duration at feeding stations, and increased encounter rate with evergreen trees still retaining leaves. Both total time active and proportion of active time spent foraging increased over the dry season. Digestive capacity was apparently increased to accommodate a higher daily food intake, which compensated for reduced diet quality. Only in September at the end of the dry season, when little foliage remained, were compensatory adjustments inadequate to meet energy requirements. The functional response relating consumption rate to seasonal changes in food abundance showed little variation, despite a decline in foliage biomass by more than an order of magnitude. The kudus were neither energy maximizers, nor time minimizers, but rather targeted on their energy requirements with least overall cost. Findings demonstrate that the foraging time and digestive capacity constraints assumed in optimal diet models are somewhat elastic. Dietary predictions obtained using average parameter settings may be misleading, because constraints may become effective only under extreme conditions. Further research is needed to establish the costs associated with stretching physiological constraints towards their upper tolerance limits.
Kudu populations in 2 areas of the Kruger National Park differing in mean rainfall increased in 1974-78 then declined in 1978-83. Because of high annual variability in juvenile recruitment, no stable age distribution was attained. Survival rates of juveniles (including prenatal losses), yearlings and old females (>6 yr of age) were significantly correlated with the preceding annual rainfall total. Rainfall over the late wet season exerted the strongest influence. A negative relation was evident between survival and preceding biomass density of kudus. For prime females only a weak relation between survival rates and both variables combined was shown in the lower rainfall study area. Survival rates were significantly correlated with resource supply relative to population demand, as indexed by the rainfall/biomass ratio, except in the case of prime females. The higher kudu density in one area counterbalanced the higher mean rainfall there. Juvenile survival post-conception functioned as the key factor causing population fluctuations as well as being density-dependent. Prime females 2-5 yr old conferred a degree of population resilience to drought due to their insensitivity to resource limitations. Rainfall is presumed to act through its effects on the food supply, in particular of high quality components such as forbs, but the effects of wet season rainfall on juvenile survival appeared to be partially density-independent. Predation was probably responsible for a background mortality level of 5-10% per annum even among prime-aged animals. Although all mortality was probably mediated by predation, except during a severe drought year, fluctuations in mortality were evidently dependent on nutritional well-being as influenced by rainfall relative to kudu density. -from Author