Gemsbok (Oryx gazella) has been referred to as the “Aristocrat of the Plains”, and are often rated as the most handsome of the antelope species.
Four Fascinating Facts:
1. Gemsbok can subsist in waterless landscapes, utilizing habitats that other grazers can only use during rainy seasons. They love grazing on short grasses, but will turn to browsing thick leaves with a high moisture content when necessary – their teeth structure allows them to graze and browse.
They extract moisture from wild melons, juicy roots, tubers and bulbs, which they dig for with their horns.
When water is scarce, the Gemsbok can raise its body temp to 45deg before beginning to sweat (evaporative cooling) – this would be a deadly fever temp to humans. They can also concentrate their urine and absorb all the moisture from their faeces to reuse it.
2. Male and Female Gemsbok are almost identical in appearance, ie. they have a very low sexual dimorphism. The thought is that this facilitates longer acceptance of juvenile males by older territorial males, helping them to better survive in vast empty spaces where finding mates can be
a serious challenge. Reproduction ensured!
3. Gemsbok social structure is different from most other antelope species, in that they don’t use a harem system where one dominant breeding male controls a group of females and young. Gemsbok form mixed herds of males and females; rank within these groups is maintained with sparring contests/fights. Territorial males use an extreme crouch defecation position as a visual display of social status. Unusual Social Structure!
4. Gemsbok cows isolate themselves before calving, and after giving birth, hide their calves for 4-6 weeks, and only thereafter join the herd. The Gemsbok mother remains within sight of her concealed offspring, visiting a few times a day to suckle. The black and white face markings only begin to appear when the calf is ready to join the herd They suckle up to about 9 months.
Hide their Young!
This is the Karoo area where Gemsbok thrive – the Plains of BloemhofKaroo!