Ian Little, Manager – EWT Threatened Grassland Species Programme, compiled this report:
Oribi occur throughout the eastern grasslands of South Africa including the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, parts of the eastern FreeState and even Gauteng. The majority of the population is centred on the first two of these provinces. These small elegant antelope occur in open grassland habitat and are often seen either lying down in medium tall grass or grazing over short grass areas. While their numbers are thought to be relatively stable the current population is considered to be Endangered in South Africa, primarily as a result of habitat loss through mining, crop agriculture and plantation forestry.
Currently however the greatest threat to these animals is hunting with dogs, especially organised gambling syndicates or so-called “taxi hunters”. These occur in the form of large groups of people with packs of dogs numbering up to 60 dogs. These dogs are set after any game that moves (usually trespassing on private land), and they indiscriminately kill whatever moves. Large financial wagers are made on the first dog to pull down prey. Oribi are particularly susceptible as they live in open areas and tend to use camouflage rather than speed to escape predators, an essentially hopeless tactic against packs of domestic dogs.
Oribi do also occasionally get caught in fences. This usually results when two territorial males fight, they are extremely aggressive for their size. Subordinate males are often killed by dominant males but occasionally the subordinate male gets away or gets pushed against a fence until entangled. This is what happened in late May in near Underberg when the young male Oribi depicted here was delivered to the landowner by farm workers. The animal could not walk and was clearly in distress. The farmer put the injured animal in a horse stable with food and left it for almost a week to recover. It was felt that as the animal was eating and moving around it would have been more stressful to move it than to leave for just long enough to regain strength for release. Often, and in fact almost always, the path of least interference is best when dealing with wild animals.
When the Oribi was moving freely the landowner and an EWT fieldworker with limited experience with Oribi attempted to catch the little guy. While this may have been a good idea with an antelope such a duiker, Oribi are significantly more nervous of physical contact. One attempt left the fieldworker with a nasty gash on his arm and a bruised ego. A member of the Oribi Working Group was immediately called to assist and with the help of a specialised travelling box the Oribi was relocated back to a quiet part of the farm.
Just goes to show, never under-estimate the smaller ones!