Location in Zoo
Lifestyle and Lifespan
Klipspringers are small, stocky gazelles that are 20-24 inches high at the shoulder and weigh 20-40 pounds. Females are slightly larger than males. The fur is grizzled in appearance, with individual hairs ranging from gray to brown, yellow, and olive green. The undersides, area around the mouth, and inside of the ears are paler or white. They have a darkly colored preorbital gland below the front of the eye, and their ears are rounded and large. The hooves are small, about the diameter of a dime, which gives the klipspringer the appearance of walking on tiptoes, and their hindquarters are large. Males have short spiky horns up to 6 inches in length, and in some populations the females have horns as well.
There are eleven recognized subspecies of klipspringer, based on fur and horn morphology. The Cape klipspringer (O. o. oreotragus) has yellow fur speckled with brown, while the Transvaal klipspringer (O. o. transvaalensis) is bright golden-yellow. The Stevenson’s klipspringer (O. o. stevensoni) is grayer and duller. Both male and female Maasai klipspringer (O. o. schillingsi) have horns in the eastern regions of their range.
The klipspringer’s hooves are well adapted to its rocky habitat. The last joints of the digits are rotated, so that the klipspringer walks on the very tips of the hooves and wears them down into a cylindrical shape. The center has a rubbery texture that helps grip the rock. They can jump from and land on rocky spaces the size of a silver dollar.
Klipspringers are found in rocky terrains, such as rocky hills and outcrops, kopjes (rocky hills in otherwise flat areas), river gorges, and mountains up to 13,000 feet.
The klipspringer is native to Africa. It can be found in northeastern Sudan, with their range extending south, through eastern and central Africa all the way to northeastern South Africa and Eswatini. On the western side of Africa, the range extends from southern South Africa north along the coast to Angola. There are isolated populations in Nigeria on the Jos Plateau and in Gashaka-Gumti National Park, and in the Central African Republic.
Klipspringers eat plants, but selectively browse on plants with a high nutritional value due to their small size and high metabolic rate. Fruits and flowers make up two-thirds of more of their diet, but they will also feed on leaves, buds, stems, succulents, and even lichen. They will only eat grasses under certain conditions.
The klipspringer has a mutually beneficial relationship with red-winged starlings and yellow-billed bulbuls, in which the birds remove ectoparasites from the body of the klipspringer. The klipspringer benefits by having the parasites, such as ticks removed, and the birds benefit by getting food.
Crepuscular: Klipspringers are most active at dawn and dusk, using this time to feed and resting during the hottest hours of the day. If the temperatures are cool, then they may continue to be up and about during the day.
If a predator is spotted, the klipspringer acting as sentinel will let out a shrill whistle to alert others to the presence of the threat. Mated pairs will scent mark their territory with droppings and gooey globules from their preorbital cavities. These territorial markings are refreshed every couple of days.
Klipspringers form long-lasting pair bonds and will be seen in these pairs or with their offspring. Because they are territorial, the average group size is 2-3 individuals. During feeding, the one klipspringer will stand guard and watch for predators while the other forages. Most of the time, it is the male that stands guard, because the female needs more food to help support lactation. If a predator is spotted, the klipspringer acting as sentinel will let out a shrill whistle to alert others to the presence of the threat. If a klipspringer invades another’s territory, the male will chase the intruder away. If it cannot, the defending klipspringer will perform dominance or defensive displays. In dominance, the klipspringer will present his horns without lowering the anterior part of his body. In defensive displays, they lower the head and bite the intruder. Males may also butt heads and females may bite each other.
Breeding season is variable based on local conditions, but often happens August through September. Courtship behavior depends on the population, and little information is available. Males have been observed following females closely and sometimes lifting their forelegs. Males and females will nibble on the secretion from the preorbital glands on each other’s faces.
Females will give birth to single offspring every 16 months. The newborn weighs just over two pounds and is born in a rocky alcove during the summer months. For the first 2-3 months after birth, the young will remain hidden for protection. They are precocial, and do not need much attention from their parents. They are weaned at 4-5 months of age and reach sexual maturity at approximately 7 months of age. Males will leave their family group around this time to establish their own territory, but the young females may remain with their family until 10-11 months of age.
The klipspringer is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN redlist and is not listed on the CITES appendices. Approximately 25% of their range is on protected land. A conservative estimate puts their total population at 40,000 individuals.
The klipspringer is largely present throughout its former range. Historically, the klipspringer was hunted for its meat and fur, which was used as a stuffing for saddles. This led to local extinctions across the range, like from the Cape Peninsula in the 1930s. Klipspringers formerly occurred in Burundi, but that population is thought to be extinct as well.
For the most part, the klipspringer has a stable population, but in isolated areas are subject to habitat loss and fragmentation as well as competition with livestock. They are sometimes hunted for meat and trophies as well
The fur is thick and hard, and the hairs are hollow. The fur reflects heat, provides insulation so the klipspringer can withstand extreme temperatures, reduces moisture loss, and protects them from injuries.
Klipspringers can jump 10-12 feet straight up in the air!
The name klipspringer comes from the Afrikaans language and describes the gazelle’s ability to jump from rock to rock.
Mated pairs will scent mark their territory with droppings and gooey globules from their preorbital cavities. These territorial markings are refreshed every couple of days.
When a predator is spotted, the klipspringer on guard duty will initially freeze. If a predator gets closer, it will whistle an alarm call by exhaling through the nostrils. Then the klipspringer pair will run to higher ground before turning and facing the threat. The male and female will continue to emit alarm calls in a duet.
The klipspringer rarely drinks water, getting most of what it needs from the dew on the plants they eat or by eating succulents.