Sitatunga | African Wildlife Foundation

The sitatunga is Africa’s only
true amphibious antelope

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Sitatunga

Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • Population of 170K individuals
  • Found in more than 20 African countries
  • Protected areas house 40% of population

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Tragelaphus spekii

Weight

100 to 240 lb.

Size

45 to 50 in. at the shoulder

Life span

Up to 19 years in captivity

Habitat

Aquatic

Diet

Herbivorous

Gestation

7.5 months

Predators

Humans, pythons, crocodiles, leopards, lions

Habitat

Where do sitatungas live?

The sitatunga lives in thickly vegetated, muddy swamps, and marshes. Sitatungas are still found in small numbers in Saiwa Swamp National Park in Western Kenya as well as in larger populations around Lake Victoria, the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, and in several river basins in Uganda.

Tags: Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, DRC, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Congo, Kazungula, Virunga, West/Central Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a sitatunga?

The sitatunga is Africa’s only true amphibious antelope. It is distinguished by its long, splayed hooves. These hooves make the sitatunga clumsy and vulnerable on firm terrain but well-adapted for walking through muddy, vegetated swamplands. The sitatunga's shaggy, oily coat is another adaptation to an aquatic habitat. The males' coats are grayish-brown, while the females' are a reddish-chocolate brown, with six to eight vertical white stripes on the body. Males are also considerably larger than females and have long, twisting horns.

Behavior & Diet

Sitatungas eat what is convenient.

Sitatungas eat bulrushes, sedges, and the leaves of bushes in the swamps as well as grass in adjacent riverine forests. They will also eat fallen fruit and chew the bark of some trees and bushes.

They are swamp creatures.

Sitatungas use regular, tunneled pathways through tall reeds and papyrus. As a swamp provides a year-round supply of rich food, sitatungas have exceptionally small home ranges. 

Slow and steady wins the races.

They are good but slow swimmers capable of paddling several miles. Usually half­-submerged, they can dive deeper if in danger, staying hidden with only part of the head out of water. They will rest on dry mounds or floating islands in the swamp, turning circles on the spot until the grass is trampled into a springy mat. Young are also placed on these mats, raised out of the water. 

Young sitatungas are more independent than most antelopes.

Although essentially solitary animals, pairs associate for short periods of time for mating, and small, temporary mixed groups are occasionally formed. The young are born on a dry, trampled mat in the swamp. The newborn lies out for as long as a month, with only short visits from its mother for suckling. Although nursed from 4 to 6 months of age, it is more independent of its mother than are most other antelopes. The ties between mother and young do not last for long, for half-grown sitatungas are often on their own. Half­-grown sitatungas are often seen foraging alone.

Gallery
  • Sitatunga Daryl and Sharna Balfour
  • Sitatunga Daryl and Sharna Balfour
  • Sitatunga Daryl and Sharna Balfour
  • Sitatunga AWF
Challenges

Hunting is causing a decline in sitatunga populations. 

Sitatungas are easily caught by setting snares in their well-traveled paths in swamps. Because of this, overhunting outside protected areas is causing a rapid decline in their numbers.

Their habitats are being destroyed.

People are draining the swamps sitatungas love to live in. 

Solutions

Our solutions to protecting the sitatunga:

  • Develop conservation tourism.

    African Wildlife Foundation knows that communities and wildlife can thrive if tourism is developed. We connect communities and private investors to construct conservation tourism lodges like Satao Elerai, a luxury lodge situated on 5,000 acres in Kenya. The land is protected, so wildlife can roam safely and freely, and the revenue is reinvested into the community and into local wildlife conservation.

  • Bridge the gap between conservation and education.

    AWF works with rural communities living in close proximity to wildlife to build schools. In exchange for practicing conservation, communities receive schools with technology labs and conservation curriculums. In Tanzania, AWF rebuilt Manyara Ranch Primary School. By working with communities to provide tangible incentives for conservation and education on the need for conservation, we are able to foster a culture of conservation.

Projects

Will you show sitatungas your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on critical initiatives like building conservation schools and developing conservation tourism lodges. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the sitatunga does not become an endangered species.

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