[ Oreotragus oreotragus ]
An Unusual Antelope
||2.5 to 3 feet
nearly 2 feet
||male: a little over 20 pounds; female: up to 30 pounds
||shrubs, herbs, green leaves, and buds
||alfalfa hay, grain, carrots, and apples
||eastern and southern Africa
||rocky outcroppings in the middle of plains or woodlands, mountain cliffs, and river valley gorges
Klip is Dutch for rock and klipspring means "rock-jumper." Steep rocky cliffs and outcrops don't seem like the best places to live, but klipspringer antelope thrive there. Their climbing and jumping abilities give them an advantage over predators who share their rocky terrain. As agile as lions and leopards are, the predators are no match for klipspringers, which can bound up rock walls so steep they are nearly vertical.
Klipspringers are well adapted to their extreme habitat. While most antelopes are long and lean, klipspringers are short and stout. With their muscular body they can power up sheer slopes and leap crevasses. There's also a slight upward arch in their back, so they can easily bend and balance with all four feet together on the smallest patches of level rock.
But the feature that really makes klipspringers so surefooted on treacherous rock are their specialized "footwear." Their hooves are blunt and rubbery, like skid-proof shoes. Each foot has two hooves, and between the two is a tough piece of tissue that keeps the hooves from splaying. That's important because klipspringers stand, walk, leap, and land on their tiny hoof tips. And they do it all while keeping their legs and hooves in an almost straight line, like a ballerina on tip toe.
High and low
Klipspringers are a strange mix of the specialized and the general. They’re best suited to moving around on rugged terrain, so they rarely leave rocky areas. At the same time, their rocky homes can be coastal hills way down at sea level or mountains more than 14,000 feet high. As long as there are rocks around, klipspringers do just fine.
Wet and dry
Klipspringers are adaptable eaters. They often live in areas where it's very wet one season, and very dry another. In the wet season, the plants that grow in the cracks of rocky outcroppings and at the base of tall cliffs are very lush and easy to digest. The vegetation is so succulent that klipspringers get almost all their water from eating plants instead of drinking water. When rainfall is scarce, they may have to forage away from their rocky homes to find food. But their digestive system is so adaptable that woody, tough plants are no problem to digest during the dry times.
Klipspringers at Brookfield Zoo
Habitat Africa! The Savannah is home to the zoo's klipspringers. You'll find them inside the kopje, where you might see klipspringers bounding up rocks. But other times you'll have to look closely, since klipspringers often "freeze" or remain motionless for long periods. It’s a behavior that helps them fool predators in the wild.
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