Have you ever encountered the Lechwe? If not, then let this be your chance to encounter these interesting antelope species. Also known as southern lechwe, these antelopes are scientifically known as Kobus leche.
So far, four sub-species of these antelopes have been identified and include the black lechwe found in areas of Bangweulu of Zambia, the red lechwe that are many within the marshlands of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana, the Roberts Lechwe formerly found in Zambia but are not considered extinct as well as the Kafue flats lechwe restricted to the Kafue flats although sometimes cross to the inundated flood-plains on the Kafue River of Zambia. Besides that, the red lechwe females are the most colorful and beautiful.
The lechwe are one of the three antelope species (including the Topis and closely related Kobs) that are known to form breeding arenas or leks with a high population density. They inhabit wetland areas of Central and southern Africa and are native to Southern Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, eastern Angola (especially within the Okavango Delta, Bangweulu Swamps and Kafue flats) as well as Zambia.
These antelopes inhabit marshy areas and feed on mostly aquatic plants. They always utilize the knee-deep water for safety and protection against their predators. It is for this reason that their legs are covered in water-repellant substances that allow them to run very fast in the knee-deep waters.
The shoulder height of the lechwe is 90 to 100 centimeters (35 to 39 inches) while their weight ranges from 70 to 120 kilograms (150 to 260 pounds). They are characterized by their golden brown coats with white bellies. You will notice that the males are darker in color although this usually varies depending on the sub-species. Their hindquarters are higher and wider than their forequarters with long necks and short yet blunt muzzles.
Their long and spiral-structured horns are also lyre-shaped and are only found in the males. This is one of the ways to identify their sexes but both sexes have longer hind legs, in proportion to other antelope species, which is important for easing long distance running in marshy soils.
Lechwe are diurnal animals and also live in large herds comprising of up to thousands of individuals. These herds are surprisingly of one sex but will mix during the mating season. It is surprising that the Upemba lechwe (Kobus anselli is also believed to be a different sub-species by some researchers as Kobus leche anselli.
The lechwe are members of the Reduncini tribe just like the Kobs and waterbucks and interestingly ranks second only to the Nyala among most aquatic African antelopes. They are sizeable and long-horned antelopes (0fcourse in only the males) with strongly built bodies.
Lechwe have greasy and water-repellent coats and females have tawny to chestnut coats that resemble one another, apart from the minor differences in their markings. They usually enter water to feed on aquatic grasses, one of the abundant resources that are not utilized by majority of the other herbivores and usually graze on grasses that spring up as floodwaters increase.