Kobus vardonii 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Kobus vardonii (Livingstone, 1857)
Common Name(s):
English Puku
French Puku
Taxonomic Notes: Molecular data (Birungi and Arctander 2000) provide evidence that the Puku may be a subspecies of the more widely distributed kob Kobus kob.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-06-30
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Hoffmann, M.
The largest population, in the Kilombero Valley, is suspected to have declined at around 37% over the past 19 years (three generations). Populations in Zambia are reportedly stable so the overall decline in the global population over three generations is suspected to be closer to 25%, thus approaching the criterion A2acd threshold for the Vulnerable category. The species is assessed as Near Threatened, however the situation requires close monitoring and further decline in the Kilombero population or the main populations in Zambia could soon result in the species meeting the threshold for Vulnerable.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Puku (Kobus vardonii) formerly occurred widely in grasslands near permanent water within the savannah woodlands and floodplains of south-central Africa. It has been eliminated from large parts of its former range and reduced to fragmented, isolated populations, but some of these are still numerous. Large numbers now occur in only two countries, Tanzania and Zambia (East 1999, Jenkins 2013). Populations of Puku still occur in north-east Botswana on the Chobe River floodplain (Dipotso and Skarpe 2006), and they occur as vagrants in the middle Zambezi valley of Zimbabwe and the eastern Caprivi strip of Namibia (Jenkins 2013). In Zambia around 85% of Puku occur in protected areas.
Countries occurrence:
Angola; Botswana; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Malawi; Tanzania, United Republic of; Zambia
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:East (1999) estimated the total population size at 130,000. A recent aerial survey of the Kilombero Valley, containing Africa's largest Puku population, employed two complementary methods to assess the population size. When surveyed using the same methods as used on previous counts, the population was estimated as 23,301± 5,602 SE, a notable decrease from the previous estimates of 55,769 ± 19,428 SE in 1989 and 66,964 ± 12,629 in 1998. However, a more intensive survey was also undertaken (using 2.5 km transect spacing as opposed to 10 km) specifically to count the Puku and this resulted in a population estimate of 42,352 ± 5,927 SE (Jenkins 2013, and references therein). These figures indicate a decline in Kilombero of 37% in a period (15 years) equivalent to less than three generations (19 years).

The small population in the Selous G.R. has been extirpated. The population of Puku on the floodplains along the Chobe River was believed to be in decline since the last census in 1965-1967; however, the population has shown a strong increase in numbers compared with the 1960s, although the concentration of the population has shifted eastwards (Dipotso and Skarpe 2006).

There are no precise estimates for the populations in Zambia, but they are reportedly stable.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Puku are obligate grazers, occupying grasslands near permanent water within the savannah woodlands and floodplains of south-central Africa. Although associated with wet areas and swamp vegetation, Puku avoid deep standing water, and in that sense are ecologically distinct from Lechwe (Jenkins 2013). The high population growth rate of Puku has been suggested to explain the rapid recovery of some populations following cessation of unsustainable poaching levels (Goldspink et al. 1998).
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Generation Length (years):6.4

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Puku are relatively easy to approach during the dry season, when densely aggregated on floodplains, and are consequently very vulnerable to hunting. Levels of offtake by local people are difficult to determine, but are likely to be high in areas near to human settlements (Jenkins et al. 2002), because Puku is a highly desired source of meat and also a valuable non-food resource (the skin is used for drums and furniture). Almost 20% of school children in Haule et al.'s (2002) household questionnaire survey reported eating Puku in their last meal.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat fragmentation caused by expanding human settlements and cultivation is a major threat to Puku populations. The social/breeding system is particularly vulnerable to disruption by habitat fragmentation and hunting with the longer term impact of a collapse of population recruitment (Jenkins 2013). In the Kilombero Valley, Jenkins et al. (2002) reported that the major threat to Puku came from the expansion of cattle herds onto the floodplain boundary and damage to wet season habitat by farmers who cleared miombo woodland. Unsustainable hunting and especially heavy poaching appear to have extirpated Puku at sites across their range (East 1999).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: East (1999) estimated that about one-third of the total population survives in protected areas. Besides Kilombero Valley, key areas for the survival of Puku include: Katavi-Rukwa (Tanzania), Kafue NP, North and South Luangwa NPs, Kasanka and Nsumbu-Tondwa-Mweru Wantipa (Zambia). There are smaller populations in Kasungu N.P. (Malawi) and Chobe N.P. in Botswana (East 1999). Around 85% of Puku in Zambia occur in protected areas (Jenkins 2013). Priority actions to conserve Puku across their range were discussed by Jenkins (2013).

Citation: IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. 2016. Kobus vardonii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T11037A50189881. . Downloaded on 23 September 2018.
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