Kobus leche 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Kobus leche
Species Authority: Gray, 1850
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Southern Lechwe
French Cobe Lechwe, Lechwe
Spanish Cobo de Lechwe
Taxonomic Notes: Four distinct lechwe populations are recognized as subspecies (Ansell and Banfield 1979, Birungi and Arctander 2001): Black Lechwe (K. l. smithemani); Kafue Lechwe (K. l. kafuensis); Red Lechwe (K. l. leche); and the extinct Roberts' Lechwe (K. l. robertsi). A fifth taxon, the Upemba Lechwe (K. l. anselli) from south-eastern DR Congo, which Cotterill (2005) described as a distinct species, is treated here provisionally as a subspecies of the Lechwe.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern 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)
Remains widespread in South-Central Africa though restricted to swamp and floodplain margins. Although all surviving subspecies have undergone substantial declines, most populations are now stable or increasing and total numbers estimated at ca. 200,000 (East 1999). The species’ conservation status should not deteriorate further as long as its habitats are maintained in several key areas - in particular Bangweulu (Black Lechwe), Kafue Flats (Kafue Lechwe) and Okavango, Linyanti, Busanga and Caprivi (Red Lechwe) - and illegal hunting is adequately controlled.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The distribution of the Lechwe is discontinuous, with major populations restricted to extensive wetlands in Botswana, Namibia, Angola and Zambia, and remnants of populations in south-east DR Congo. Present distribution is much the same as its historical distribution, except that range has contracted, particularly over the last century (East 1999; Jeffery and Nefdt in press). The ranges of the four subspecies are as follows (from Jeffery and Nefdt in press):

The Kafue Lechwe is confined to the Kafue Flats in central Zambia.

The Black Lechwe is confined to the southern half of the Bangweulu Swamps of northern Zambia. It is unlikely to survive in its former range on the Chambeshi floodplains along the upper Luapula floodplain that forms the common frontier between Zambia and south-eastern DRC.

Red Lechwe are found in the Okavango Delta, and the Kwando/Linyanti/Chobe system of northern Botswana; the Okavango, Kwando/Linyanti/Chobe, Mashi, and Zambezi River systems of north-east Namibia; and the upper Zambezi and middle Kafue of Zambia.

The extinct Robert’s Lechwe was reportedly restricted to within the Luongo and Kalungwishi drainage systems of the lower Luapula locality of north-east Zambia.

The Upemba Lechwe is restricted to the Upemba wetlands, Kamalondo depression, in the Katanga
Province of south-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (Cotterill 2005).
Countries occurrence:
Angola (Angola); Botswana; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Namibia; Zambia
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Population estimates based on aerial surveys are available for all of the major surviving Lechwe populations. East (1999), correcting for undercounting biases, produced a total population estimate of 98,000 Red Lechwe (85% in the Okavango Delta), 78,000 Kafue Lechwe and 36,000 Black Lechwe. Overall population trends are stable or increasing for the Black and Kafue Lechwes and for the Red Lechwe in protected areas, but are decreasing for the Red Lechwe outside protected areas (East 1999).

The Kafue Lechwe population has been monitored for many years, and has the most reliable time-series of population records. In the early 1970s, estimates consistently put the population at between 90,000 and 110,000. By the early 1980s the population had been reduced to between 40,000 and 45,000, but has increased thereafter slowly to between 50,000 and 70,000 (East 1999; Jeffery and Nefdt in press, and references therein).

Black Lechwe increased from 16,000-17,000 in the late 1960s to about 40,000 in 1980 and subsequently decreased to 30,000, where it seems to have stabilised since the late 1980s (East 1999; Jeffery and Nefdt in press).

The Upemba Lechwe population of DR Congo has declined from about 20,000 to less than 1,000 since the 1980s (Cotterill 2005).

Roberts Lechwe is extinct.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Lechwe are associated with wetlands, preferring the shallow water margins of floodplains and swamps (less than a metre deep), although they may occasionally swim across deep-water areas. They typically frequent light woodlands and termitaria grasslands on the periphery of inundated floodplains, floodplain grasslands and water-meadows among seasonally inundated floodplains, shallow water meadows of permanently inundated swamps and lagoons, and occasionally papyrus and reed beds of permanent deep-water swamps (Jeffery and Nefdt in press). Southern Lechwe are grazers, feeding mainly on floodplain and aquatic grasses. Nefdt (1996) discusses an instance in which Lechwe adapted their reproductive behaviour to changes in ecology including those induced by human activities.
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Lechwes have been eliminated from large parts of their former range by poaching for meat. Poaching is implicated in apparent large-scale changes in the dry season distribution of Black Lechwe, with a dramatic decrease in the numbers occupying the western end of the main Bangweulu Swamps where poaching is intense. In contrast, its numbers appear to be stable or increasing in the central section of the main swamp, and there has been a steady increase in the dry season population on the 100 km² Chimbwi Plain in south-eastern Bangweulu (East 1999). Commercial poaching is also the primary reason for the dramatic decline in numbers of the Upemba Lechwe (Cotterill 2005).

Droughts and disruption of the natural flooding regime are significant causes of population decline. For example, water flow on the Kafue floodplain has been regulated almost entirely by human needs since the construction of hydroelectric dams at the eastern and western ends of the Flats in the 1970s. The Kafue Flats are also used for livestock grazing and the peripheral area is densely settled, particularly in the south. As already noted, the population of Kafue Lechwe decreased from 90,000-100,000 in the early 1970s, before the closure of the dams, to 40,000-50,000 in the early to mid-1980s (East 1999).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Today, Lechwes survive mainly in and around protected areas and game reserves.

Red Lechwe occur in the Moremi G.R. and Chobe N.P. (Botswana), Sioma Ngwezi, Liuwa Plains and Kafue National Parks, and the West Zambezi and Kasonso-Busanga Game Management Areas (Zambia), Kameia N.P. and the Luando, Mavinga and Luiana Game Reserves (Angola), and the Western Caprivi G.R. and the Mahango Game Park (Namibia) (Jeffery and Nefdt in press).

Kafue Lechwe occur only in Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon National Parks, both Ramsar sites, and the Kafue Flats Game Management Area in Zambia (Jeffery and Nefdt in press).

Black Lechwe occur only in the Bangweulu Game Management Area, and the Kalasa-Mukoso Game Management Area, while the Upemba National Park is the only known protected area refuge for the Upemba Lechwe (Jeffery and Nefdt in press).

The long-term survival of the lechwe in the wild is totally dependent on the effective protection and management of its remaining populations and their wetland habitats in a few critical areas, in particular Bangweulu (Black Lechwe), Kafue Flats (Kafue Lechwe), Okavango, Linyanti, Busanga and Caprivi (Red Lechwe), and Upemba N.P. (Upemba Lechwe). A significant proportion of the species’ total numbers occurs outside national parks and game reserves (>80% for the Red Lechwe). It is therefore likely that both revenue generation through sustainable offtake by sport hunters which capitalises on the species’ value as a trophy animal and the development of sustainable harvesting to provide meat for local people, e.g., in Bangweulu and Kafue Flats, will play an increasingly important role in the conservation of lechwe populations (East 1999).

Populations of Lechwe are maintained in captivity.

Listed on CITES Appendix II.

Classifications [top]

5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.4. Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.3. Wetlands (inland) - Shrub Dominated Wetlands
4. Grassland -> 4.6. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Seasonally Wet/Flooded
1. Forest -> 1.8. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Swamp
1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.2. Droughts
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.1. Nomadic grazing
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.11. Dams (size unknown)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

♦  Sport hunting/specimen collecting
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Ansell, W. F. H. and Banfield, C. F. 1979. The subspecies of Kobus leche Gray, 1850 (Bovidae). Säugetierkundliche Mitteilungen 40: 168-176.

Birungi, J. and Arctander, P. 2001. Molecular systematics and phylogeny of the Reduncini (Artiodactyla: Bovidae) inferred from the analysis of mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 8: 125-147.

Cotterill, F. P. D. 2005. The Upemba lechwe, Kobus anselli: an antelope new to science emphasizes the conservation importance of Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo. Journal of Zoology (London) 265: 113 -132.

East, R. (compiler). 1999. African Antelope Database 1998. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Jeffery, R. and Nefdt, R. 2013. Kobus leche Southern Lechwe. In: J. S. Kingdon and M. Hoffmann (eds), The Mammals of Africa. VI. Pigs, Hippopotamuses, Chevrotain, Giraffes, Deer, and Bovids, pp. 449-455. Bloomsbury Publishing, London, UK.

Nefdt, R. J. C. 1996. Reproductive seasonality in Kafue lechwe. Journal of Zoology (London) 239: 155-166.

Citation: IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. 2008. Kobus leche. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T11033A3241464. . Downloaded on 18 August 2017.
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