“Are those little mountain goats up there?” says one of my guests…mmm … not quite!
One of the really special animals you might encounter at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is the appropriately named ‘Klipspringer’. ‘Klipspringer’ literally means ‘Rock jumper’. Klipspringers are mostly found in pairs or family groups of three. A male and female will mate for life. They are often seen standing prominently on the rocks. This is because of their territorial nature, as it helps in advertising their possession of the territory. It also helps with spotting potential predators like leopards.
Klipspringer take turns feeding. They will give a penetrating whistle if a potential predator is spotted. They will stand on a rock whistling until the predator leaves.
Territories are demarcated by preorbital gland marks and dung middens. Both partners scent mark by manoeuvring the tip of a thin, bare twig on a low bush into the opening of their preorbital gland. This leaves a sticky, sickly-sweet smelling black smear about 5cm long, which builds up to a black blob from repeated markings on the same twig. The male usually over-marks his mate’s marks. Klipspringers release the odour from scent marks by licking them.
These little antelope have evolved to live on rocky outcrops and beautiful gorges. They are incredibly agile, leaping with ease from boulder to boulder and using small cracks and ledges to climb cliffs. They stand on the tips of their hooves, which are oval with soft pads in the middle and hard rims to provide grip. Another adaption they have for living on the rocks is their hair. Klipspringer’s hair is actually hollow. Popular opinion has it that the coarse, bristly, hollow hair has a cushioning function for when the animal might slip and fall. It is however, more likely that it serves as a heat regulator. Klipspringer hair was formerly prized for stuffing saddles.
Written by Marco Fitchet
Senior Guide at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve