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Tsessebe - Species Detail
Damaliscus lunatus lunatus
Sasabi (Sp), Halbmondantilope (G), Sassaby (F), Tsessebe (Af). Sometimes spelled "sassaby," but pronounced the same. "Tsessebe" is from the Tswana tshesebe for this animal.
DESCRIPTION Shoulder height 47-48 inches (119-122 cm). Weight 300 pounds (140 kg).
The tsessebe is a medium-large antelope with its shoulders higher than its hindquarters, its back sloping downward. Overall color is a dark reddish brown with an iridescent purplish sheen. The front of the face is blackish. There are purplish black markings on the lower part of the shoulders and hips, on the outer side of the legs above the knees and hocks, and also forming a band on the inner side of the upper legs that is most extensive on the hind legs. (These dark markings are less extensive than in the topi group.) The lower legs are yellowish brown. The belly is reddish in front, becoming yellowish white in back. The tail is somewhat longer than in the topi group, and has a crest of long, dark hairs on the lower half. The horns (both sexes) are small, ringed except at the tips, and lunate or crescent-shaped when viewed from the front. Females are similar to males, though slightly smaller and with slimmer horns.
BEHAVIOR Not as gregarious as members of the topi group. Lives in family groups or small herds of 8-10, which sometimes congregate in much larger herds during the dry season. Active mainly morning and evening. Exclusively a grazer. Drinks water regularly when available, but able to do without it for long periods. Eyesight and hearing are very good, sense of smell is good. A highly curious animal. Despite its clumsy appearance, the tsessebe has the reputation of being the swiftest antelope in southern Africa, with the ability to gallop tirelessly for many miles. Actually, it probably is no faster than the topi, tiang and korrigum.
HABITAT Plains, grassland, swampy flood plains.
DISTRIBUTION Eastern Angola; the Okavango and Caprivi regions of Namibia; western Zambia west of the upper Zambezi, and also near Lake Bangweulu in the northeast; the extreme tip of Shaba Province in Congo (K); northern and eastern Botswana; and scattered localities in Zimbabwe.
Formerly throughout much of South Africa as far south and west as the confluence of the Orange and Vaal Rivers; however, it was exterminated by early settlers except in the eastern Transvaal. Has been re-established in reserves and private ranches, mainly in the Transvaal.
Was once widely distributed in Mozambique south of the Zambezi, but seems to have disappeared after 1970, and is thought to be extinct there.
REMARKS The tsessebe has a beautiful skin but unimpressive horns, and most are taken incidentally while hunting other species, or for staff rations. Usually not too difficult to approach, as it lives in rather open habitat, is curious, and not particularly wary; however, where it has been hunted hard it becomes much more evasive.
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