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Despite its name, the Waterbuck is not at all aquatic. They do tend to inhabit savannah grasslands, forests and woodlands that are close to water if possible – a habitat that provides them not only with year round sustenance but long grasses and watery places to in which to hide from predators.
When threatened by a predator on the land the Waterbuck can run into the water to escape, taking refuge in waterholes and rivers. The Waterbuck has a thick, wiry coat to keep it warm in the chilly water and it secretes oil from its skin. This oil makes the waterbuck ‘waterproof’, allowing it to regulate its body temperature and stops it becoming heavy and waterlogged when hiding in the water. This oil is also extremely smelly and unlike many other animals, the male does not mark his territory with dung or urine as his presence and smell are apparently sufficient!
Waterbuck are strong and robust with large, rounded ears and heart shaped noses. They are dark brown in colour with white patches around their eyes, nose and throat. Only the male Waterbuck have horns which are very strong and can grow up to a metre long. The Common Waterbuck has a very distinct marking on its rump - a white ring encircling its tail. This white ring is one of the more prominent examples of a ‘follow me’ marking that many animals have. These are markings which make it easy for animals of the same species to follow each other, and particularly for young animals to follow mothers running from danger.
A male Waterbuck is usually a quiet, sedentary animal with a large territory. Females on the other hand, form herds of 5- 25 animals and wander around large home ranges, constantly passing in and out of a male’s territory.
Habitat loss and fragmentation are the biggest threats facing the waterbuck. As people construct new roads, build settlements and expand agriculture, they are infringing on wildlife habitats. Animals such as Hyenas, Lions and Leopards are major predators as well as Crocodiles, African Wild Dogs and Cheetah.
- A Waterbuck’s body odour is so bad that it deters predators!
- While it is suckling, a mother Waterbuck will clean her calf so no odour remains to attract predators
- A female waterbuck is pregnant for approximately 280 days
- Waterbuck consume coarse grasses that are seldom eaten by other grazing animals, as well as leaves from certain trees and bushes
- Werribee Open Range Zoo
- Healesville Sanctuary
- Melbourne Zoo