Damaliscus pygargus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Damaliscus pygargus (Pallas, 1767)
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Blesbok, Bontebok
Damaliscus dorcas
Damaliscus dorcas ssp. dorcas Pallas, 1766
Taxonomic Notes: The valid name of this species is Damaliscus pygargus, not Damaliscus dorcas which appears more commonly in the literature (see Rookmaaker 1991; Grubb 1999, 2005; David and Lloyd in press). Two well-differentiated subspecies are recognized: the Bontebok D. p. pygargus and the Blesbok D. p. phillipsi. The two have been considered as separate species by some (e.g., Allen 1939, and see Essop et al. 1991), but are here regarded as conspecific.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Lloyd, P. & David, J.
Reviewer(s): Mallon, D.P. (Antelope Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)
Listed as Least Concern as the species is reasonably abundant in both formal conservation areas and on private land, the population is stable/increasing, and there do not appear to be any major threats to its long-term survival.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Bontebok was historically confined to the coastal plain (60-200 m) of the Western Cape, South Africa, where overhunting reduced it from locally abundant to the verge of extinction. It was saved from extinction in the mid-19th century by a few Cape farming families who protected the small remnant populations. From a low of less than 20 animals in the original Bontebok National Park (established near Bredasdorp in 1931), the population of this antelope has gradually recovered. The population of Bontebok National Park had reached 84 when the animals were translocated to the more suitable site of the current Bontebok National Park near Swellendam in 1960, and increased to a population of 320 in 1981. The park’s Bontebok population has subsequently been maintained at around 250. Surplus animals removed from this national park have formed the nucleus of reintroduced populations in other protected areas such as provincial and local authority nature reserves. Extralimital populations have been established in West Coast National Park and at least two local authority reserves. Bontebok populations have also been established on private farms both within its natural range and elsewhere, e.g., in Eastern Cape and Free State provinces (East 1999).

The Blesbok’s historical distribution included the highveld of Free State and Gauteng provinces, parts of western and north-western KwaZulu-Natal, and the northern Karoo in the Eastern and Northern Cape, South Africa. It was separated by more than 300 km from the Bontebok’s historical range. Although the Blesbok occurred in enormous populations in regions such as the highveld when the South African hinterland was first explored by Europeans, excessive hunting had reduced its numbers to about 2,000 by the late 19th century. Since then it has made a spectacular recovery, mainly on private farmland, and it has been translocated to many parts of the country both within and outside its natural range. The largest numbers occur on private farms in Gauteng, Free State and Northern Cape. Smaller numbers occur in numerous provincial reserves, with the largest populations in areas such as Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve in Gauteng and Tussen-die-Riviere Game Farm, Willem Pretorius Game Reserve and Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve in Free State (East 1999).

The Blesbok was formerly present in western Lesotho, but exterminated before 1900 (Lynch 1994). There is no reliable historical evidence that Blesbok occurred in Swaziland, but they have been introduced to Malolotja Nature Reserve and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary (Monadjem 1998).

The Blesbok has been introduced widely to privately owned game farms outside its natural range in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe (East 1999).
Countries occurrence:
South Africa
Regionally extinct:
Botswana; Namibia; Zimbabwe
Present - origin uncertain:
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):60
Upper elevation limit (metres):2000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:East (1999) estimated there to be at least 235,000-240,000 Blesbok (stable or increasing), of which 97% occur on private farms and 3% in protected areas, and at least 2,300 Bontebok (increasing). Current estimates put the numbers of Bontebok at around 3,500; however, based on a 2001 survey, only about 1500 animals actually occur within the native historical range of the subspecies. The largest population is in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, and adjacent Overberg Test Range with some 700 animals (David and Lloyd in press).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species is highly characteristic of the open plateau grasslands of the southern African highveld (Blesbok), up to 2,000 m asl, and coastal Cape fynbos (Bontebok) (East 1999). Both subspecies are almost exclusively grazers, with a preference for short grass; water is an essential habitat requirement (David and Lloyd in press).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Specimens are taken from in situ and ex situ ranches, and from the wild, but percentages are not known.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): As a species there do not seem to be any major threats to its long-term survival. While the Bontebok’s numbers are gradually recovering, this subspecies is threatened by hybridization with the much more numerous Blesbok (which has been widely reintroduced, and also introduced outside its former range). Interbreeding has produced numerous hybrids on private land. A photographically based statistical technique is used to differentiate between true Bontebok and Bontebok/Blesbok hybrids for the purpose of identifying registered Bontebok herds (Fabricius et al. 1989).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Bontebok (D. p. pygargus) is listed in the CITES Appendix II. However, strict control of trade means that existing trade does not seem to be adversely affecting the population, which is still exhibiting overall growth (Friedmann and Daly 2004).

The economic value and popularity of the Blesbok on private farms has enabled this subspecies to re-occupy large areas of its original range; substantial extralimital populations of the Blesbok have also been established on private land outside its natural range in South Africa and elsewhere. The survival of the Bontebok is more dependent on protected areas, especially Bontebok National Park and the De Hoop Nature Reserve, although they also occur on private property both within and outside their former range.

Citation: Lloyd, P. & David, J. 2008. Damaliscus pygargus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T30208A9530977. . Downloaded on 23 September 2018.
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