With shoulder heights ranging from 100 cm to 150 cm, Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) is one of the tallest antelopes with the largest horns in the bushbuck tribe, averaging 120 cm in length. It is also strikingly handsome, with a grey-brown coat marked by thin white side stripes.
The male has a small dewlap and large spiralling horns, and its coat colour darkens with age. Its tail is black-tipped with a white underside and has a beard that females lack.
Greater kudus are found in southern and eastern Africa, and their population is the densest in the south. East Africa’s population is divided into many isolated groups in the mountains. In Uganda, Greater Kudu occurs only in small numbers in Kidepo.
Greater Kudu is highly alert and notoriously hard to approach. When they detect danger – often using their large, radar-like ears – they give a hoarse alarm bark, then flee with a distinctive, rocking-horse running motion, the male laying back his horns to avoid overhead obstructions.
The horns of a mature bull kudu have two and a half twists and, if straightened, reach an average length of 120cm. However, they may occasionally have three full twists, and the record length is a whopping 187.64cm. The horns do not begin to grow until the bull reaches 6–12 months, twisting once at around two years of age and not getting the full two-and-a-half twists until age six.
Kudu horns have long served different traditional communities as embellishment and musical instruments, including the shofar, a Jewish ritual horn blown at Rosh Hashanah.
The greater kudu is found in a variety of habitats throughout Africa. As long as they have good cover, greater kudu can survive in the settled areas of Africa.
You can also find kudu in habitats that provide bush and thicket cover. In the rains, greater kudu remains in the deciduous woodlands. During the dry season, they hang out along the banks of rivers with rich vegetation.
Greater Kudu has most recently been assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2016 and is listed as Least Concern with numbers totalling 300,000-350,000 individuals wordwide.
Greater kudus are seasonal breeders in Uganda. They calve in the rainy season, February to June, and mate near or after the end of the rains.
Females, if well nourished, can breed in two years. However, most females do not reach maturity until three years and males become mature in five years.
Kudus have a nine-month gestation period, and calves are born when the grass is high. Calves remain hidden for two weeks before joining the herd.
The kudu calves wean at six months. Male calves remain in the maternity herd for 1 and 1/2 to 2 years while the females stay in it longer.
Females and their offsprings live in herds of 1-3 heads. Though these groups have no obvious hierarchical rank, they sometimes combine to form temporary larger groups.
Males live in bachelor herds, ranging from 2 to 10 heads. It is unclear if males have a distinct hierarchical rank in their groups.
Male bachelor herds do not overlap, but the range of one male may overlap with two or three female herds. Males and females do not have any association with each other except during the mating season.
Greater kudus are not very aggressive animals and show patterns of aggression, mainly in captivity. In the wild, when greater kudu fight, it’s only between kudus of the same size.
You can reach Kidepo by road using the newly surfaced Gulu highways, which can take about 10 hours. En route is Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Budongo (chimpanzee) Forest and Murchison Falls National Park junction. So you can include Budingo, Ziwa, and Murchison on your northern Uganda safari itinerary.
Alternatively, you can fly Pakuba Airstrip using a scheduled small aircraft flight from Entebbe International Airport.