Kudu live in thicket habitats. They are very secretive and tend to freeze if startled allowing their disruptive colouration to blend them into their dappled environment. Disruptive markings are lines or marks that break the solid outline of an animal to camouflage them. The white chevron on the kudu’s face and the creamy stripes down its back also resemble the shafts of light penetrating a canopy of vegetation such as would be present in the environment where they live. When threatened away from cover, their first response is to dart into thick bush where their camouflage works best.
When kudu take flight from a threat, they lift their tails up revealing the fluffy white underside. This provides a beacon in the dense bush for other animals, particularly young to follow. This is known as a ‘follow me’ sign. The white tail also acts as flash colouration. It attracts the attention of the predator that then focuses on the white tail as it pursues the animal. As soon as the kudu stops and drops its tail, the predator loses the obvious beacon it was following and will struggle to relocate its quarry.
A Loud Bark
When kudu bulls flee through thicket habitats, they lift their noses to allow their horns to lie flat against their backs and thereby prevent them snagging on bushes.
Since sound does not travel easily through dense mediums, kudu have huge ears to help them detect even the smallest of noises in the thickets where they live. When listening, kudu focus their ears in the direction of the sound stimuli and in the process take on a curious expression.
Kudu make use of a very loud, deep bark as an alarm call since low-frequency sound travels better in dense bush. Kudu make the loudest vocalization of all antelope.
Register the Height
Kudu are the second tallest antelope in Southern Africa, the tallest being eland. They have remarkable athletic abilities and are able to jump easily over 2 m high fences. Some records show that bulls have cleared 3.5 m fences under extreme conditions.
Kudu have small hooves for their body size. Their hind feet step into the track where the front foot has just been. This is known as registering. It is an adaptation to walking quietly.
Kudu are crepuscular. This means that their typical activity periods are early in the morning and late in the afternoon (dusk and dawn). Kudu are remarkable adapters and should they be disturbed significantly, they become nocturnal. This is often the case in areas where they co-exist alongside commercial agriculture.
Kudu are not particularly water dependent as they get a lot of moisture from the leaves they browse and the fruit and succulents they eat. They do however drink regularly visiting waterholes late in the morning when the temperature is usually getting hot.
By Megan Emmett