Red Lechwe of the Okavango

The antelope that is most associated with the Okavango Delta has to be the Red Lechwe, large herds of which can be seen grazing on the seasonal floodplains.

Red Lechwe are the most common antelope in the Okavango. They are seen in herds that number in their hundreds, grazing on the short grasses of the seasonal floodplains in many areas of the Delta.

They are a water loving antelope which occur in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, the Caprivi Strip, Zambia and Botswana. Like their more elusive cousin the Sitatunga, they have long splayed hooves that allow them to move easily over the marshy ground.

Lechwe are very sturdy antelope with long shaggy chestnut brown coats. They are about 90cm tall at the shoulder and have lyre shaped horns that are around 70cm long. They feed on the grasses and sedges of the seasonal floodplains in the Okavango Delta. Lechwe gather in herds that can number in their hundreds. These are usually of the same sex, although they mix during the breeding season to mate.
Lechwe give birth in spring when the flood waters are receding and there is lots of fresh new grass for the calves to feed on. Lechwe give birth to a single calf away from the herd. The calf remains hidden in tall grass or reeds for up to three weeks. The mother will return twice a day to feed her calf and as a result, as many as 50% of the calves will die within their first few weeks of life.
Lion, Hyena and Wild Dogs are their main predators in the Delta. Lechwe will often take to the water to escape predators. They can take great leaps over channels and have a water repelling substance coating the fur on their legs which allows them to move faster through the water.
Lechwe can be seen on the open plains throughout the day. However, they are most active just before sunrise and in the early morning and the late afternoon. They rest near the water's edge in the heat of the day and sleep in separate groups near the water's edge at night to try and be less of a target for predators.
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