Litches are an unusual antelope from the genus of waterbucks. The subfamily of this species has a name similar to the genus. This rank also includes 9 more antelopes, which are basically similar to each other. Lychee, unfortunately, we can only see in the pictures, because this species does not live on the territory of our country and does not breed in captivity. Despite this, the mammal is a very unusual animal. She has a rather special lifestyle and habits, which we will tell you about on this page.
Origin of the species and description
Scientists believe that the first time the lychee was seen in the Congo region, where it lives to this day. After the new animal was discovered, it was assigned to the genus of waterbucks and given a name similar to Chinese plums. It is not known exactly why the individual was named that way, but we can only assume that the name is associated with its color. The British zoologist John Edward Gray was the first to give it such an international name in 1850.
Lychee is not the largest antelope. Her height can reach only 112 centimeters in height. Lychee has very pronounced sexual dimorphism. Males and females look like they belong to different species. The weight of a male can range from 100 to 118 kilograms, and that of a female from 70 to 80 kilograms. Despite the large, as it may seem, weight, the lychee has a very powerful body. Individuals have practically no fat layer, since the main part is occupied by muscles.
Seeing this animal on a trip to Africa is not a problem at all, especially if you are going there purposefully for this very reason. There are many excursions around the savanna where you will be told not only about the life of this mammal, but also many other animals.
Appearance and features
As we noted earlier, lychees do not differ much from their relatives in appearance. The coat of a mammal is colored in reddish colors. White spots can be found on the abdomen, face and throat. The legs have a richer color when compared to other parts of the body. Lychee has subspecies, the color of which may differ from each other. According to the color of their coat, they are divided into red litchi, black lychee, Kafuei lychee and Roberts lychee.
Interesting fact: Roberts lychees were named after the famous South African zoologist, who dedicated his life to the study of mammals
The horns of males can reach 92 centimeters in length. According to the form factor, they are thin, strongly twisted and lyre-shaped. In females, everything is much simpler – they do not have this decoration. The hooves of the animal are well adapted for life in the savannah. They can easily cross small swamps and ride for a long time on flat terrain. Lychees do not have scent glands, but their fur, which is overly oiled, has an unusual smell on its own.
Where does the lychee live?
The habitat of this mammal is very monotonous. Lychee mostly live in South Africa, but their distribution is rather discontinuous. Subspecies are usually limited to extended swampy areas. This animal can be found in Botswana, Namibia, Angola and Zambia and southeastern Congo.
Let’s talk more about the habitat of lychee subspecies. Kafsky lychee lives exclusively on the plains in central Zambia. The black lychee has already changed its habitat. At first it was seen on the floodplains of Chambeshi, but now this species inhabits the northern part of Zambia. The red lychee lives in the Okavango Delta, northeastern Nambia and the upper Zambezi. The Roberts lychee, which unfortunately is an extinct subspecies, is believed to have lived in northeastern Zambia.
What does the lychee eat?
Lychee is a herbivore. The main diet of this species consists of various types of grasses, leaves of evergreen shrubs and shoots of young trees. From time to time, lychee can feast on fruits, flowering plants and lichens. All antelopes feel the impending precipitation well and easily move towards fresh grass. Due to the hot climate, they easily adapted to long droughts, so they can do without water for some time.
Lychee’s stomach consists of 4 chambers. This allows the animal to easily digest plant foods rich in cellulose. These antelopes graze early in the morning or late in the evening, but foraging can occur at any time of the day. Hours when the sun is at its zenith, the animal tries to wait somewhere in the shade. Lychee subspecies can migrate and cross swamps in the hope of finding food for themselves.
Character and lifestyle features
Lychee, although they are kind animals, they have often been seen in a competitive struggle for their habitat. This burden lies with the males. The ranges they protect are quite small due to the high population density of the animal. The habitat of one herd can occupy from 15 to 200 meters. The competition for a favorable place to live is very high. Few males are able to hold a place for more than 2 days. Lychee females form herds that can include several thousand individuals.
Interesting fact:no other antelope can compete with the lychee in the water.
Most often, females with their offspring occupy the most humid areas of the range. Males live in arid zones, usually along the edges of the territory, protecting it in parallel. This fact is also due to the fact that they do not need water so much for life. The females of this animal can be easily found at any reservoir. They feel very comfortable in the water, because lychee are also excellent swimmers. On the lower part of the leg, they have a special water-repellent fur that has appeared in the species genetically over time. The animal prefers to gallop along water bodies.
Social structure and reproduction
Reproduction of this species begins with the arrival of the rainy season. During floods, these small groups or herds stay near the water, and graze around it. The fight for females is quite intense, because each group wants to win their place next to the females.
The duration of the breeding period is about 2.5 months, and the pregnancy itself is about 7-8 months, almost like in humans. Weight per calf — about 5 kilograms. As a rule, the birth of cubs occurs in the warm dry summer season. Mothers care for and feed their offspring for 5-6 months with their milk. The care of fathers in nature was not observed. During the year, the female gives birth to only one cub. Although she is ready to mate again in a month, therefore, in captivity they are able to give birth all year, respectively, more than one individual will come out.
Young calves also begin to form their groups, which include up to 50 animals. Having matured, the female is sexually mature already at 1.5 years of her life, and the male, in turn, is ready to have her own offspring only at the age of 5.
Natural enemies lychee
The natural enemies of the lychee include animals such as the lion, leopard and crocodile. Antelopes are the main prey for predators living in the savannah. They usually sneak up on herbivorous mammals when they are at rest. It will also not be difficult for these predators to catch up with the antelope, especially if it runs on a hard surface. In a pond, a crocodile can wait for a lychee, which unexpectedly attacks and instantly grabs its prey. Unfortunately, females often cannot fend off such large predators. And if a lion or leopard manages to penetrate into the very center of their range, then they can even grab the cubs of mammals.
The enemies of the lychee can also include a person who, by his actions, adversely affects the distribution of this species. People often do not realize the harm they can cause to the environment through their actions. Humanity is developing, but this can often adversely affect nature.
Species population and status
The lychee population has been declining over the years. The animals are getting smaller and smaller. Naturally, one of the most common causes that threatens all the animals of the globe is the development of human infrastructure. Undoubtedly, the growth of population, the construction of roads, power lines has greatly affected the lychee. However, the population of waterbucks was especially hard hit during the construction of hydroelectric power plants, due to which the habitual habitat for this animal was reduced.
The next place in terms of damage to litchi is poaching. Of course! After all, this is such a profit, given that the animal is very beautiful, not often seen, and is an African landmark. Many, with great willingness and preparedness, purposefully kill these majestic and amazing animals for their own selfish purposes, and sometimes even aimlessly, except to taste the meat of a water goat or brag to the rest by placing horns or a stuffed animal at home. Unfortunately, they do not understand that because of such a violation, an entire population can disappear from the face of the earth. The consequences are too great, because this animal plays an important role in the food chain.
The lychee population has dropped to a few thousand in each species. And the Roberts subspecies of lychee has already been completely destroyed. The same can happen to the rest of the lychee population if you do not follow the conservation and protection measures for this animal.
As we have already said, the number of lychees is noticeably declining in our time. Man is taking steps to ensure a safer existence of these animals. Even in captivity, people build fences to make it difficult for dangerous predators to enter the mammal’s habitat.
Today, lychee have a conservation status of NT, which means that the species is close to a vulnerable position. These categories are issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which also put the mammal on the Red List.
Lyches are currently being tried to breed in captivity. The experiments are successful, because females can not worry about their safety and give large offspring. This breeding option is not very suitable for males who cannot get used to life in an aviary. The man is still working on solving this problem.
Lychee is a unique species of antelope that needs our care. A person is obliged to monitor and help the surrounding animals to ensure the natural course of events in nature. Humans, of course, have an obligation to develop and improve infrastructure, but this should not affect the population of wild animals in any way.