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Kobus vardonii

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CETARTIODACTYLA BOVIDAE

Scientific Name: Kobus vardonii
Species Authority: (Livingstone, 1857)
Common Name(s):
English 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: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Mallon, D.P. (Antelope Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)
Justification:
Listed as Near Threatened as based on population data available from the Kilombero Valley, which represents perhaps half the total global population, as well as populations elsewhere, this species seems to have reached a decline on the order of 20% or more over the past three generations (21 years), thus approaching the threshold for listing as Vulnerable under A2. Any future changes in the status of the Kilombero population could have a major impact on the species’ overall status.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Puku formerly occurred widely in grasslands near permanent water within the savanna 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). Populations of Puku still occur in northeast 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 of Namibia.
Countries:
Native:
Angola (Angola); Botswana; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Malawi; Tanzania, United Republic of; Zambia
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, Africa's largest Puku population, employed two complimentary methods to assess the population size of Puku. 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 (see Jenkins in press, and references therein). 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).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Puku are obligate grazers, occupying grasslands near permanent water within the savanna 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 in press). 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

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 in press). 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.

Puku are relatively easy to approach during the dry season, when densely aggregated on floodplains, and are consequently very vulnerable to illegal hunting. Unsustainable hunting and especially heavy poaching appear to have extirpated Puku across their range (East 1999).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: East (1999) estimated that about one-third of the population survives in protected areas. Besides Kilombero Valley, key areas for the survival of Puku include: Katavi-Rukwa (Tanzania), Kafue, the Luangwa Valley and Nsumbu-Tondwa-Mweru Wantipa (Zambia), and the smaller populations in Kasungu N.P. (Malawi) and Chobe N.P. in Botswana (East 1999). Jenkins (in press) discusses priority actions to conserve Puku across their range.

Citation: IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group 2008. Kobus vardonii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 29 August 2014.
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