22 April 2012

Welcome To The Woody Cape

Sunset at the Woody Cape

I'm currently busy camera trapping at the Woody Cape section of the Addo Elephant National Park. This section of the park is separated from the main camp area and thus, unfortunately, isn't home to any of the elephants found in the main game area. However it is home to plenty of Bushbuck - and based on my camera trapping success thus far not much more. (But I'm hoping that will change over time.)

A male Bushbuck (Bosbok - Tragelaphus sylvaticus) in the Woody Cape thicket

Most of the vegetation of the Woody Cape section of the reserve consists of dense coastal dunes and very dense thickets. This vegetation is generally know as Albany Thicket. In some places the thicket starts to transition into the beginnings of a "true" forest.

This dense habitat is proving tricky to camera trap in. It is very hard for me (and I believe most other animals) to move around in the dense thicket and even the game trails are usually only Bushbuck size or smaller.

Illustrating the vegetation as it changes from coastal dune plants to thicket plants

I also believe that thickets and forests have lower mammal species richness and animal density compared to a similar area of Bushveld, Savannah, etc.

However, camera trapping is at it's best when faced with a challenge and I've got my sight set on unlocking the secrets of the Woody Cape (and its surrounds).

Bushnell Trophy Cam keeping an eye on the prize

The Bushbuck is a very sexually dimorphic species of African antelope with the male and female looking very different, especially down here in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. It is the most widely distributed antelope species and is found across most of sub-Saharan Africa, wherever there is suitable habitat.

The female Bushbuck is usually a lighter brown colour than the male, with some white spots and a varying amount of vertical stripes across the body. The females don't have any horns.

A young female sneaking past the camera

The male is a much darker colour and sports a pair of impressive horns. They are said to put up a fierce fight when hunted, even killing dogs, leopards and people. The males are up to 80 cm high at the shoulders and can weigh 45 kg.

A male checking out my Cuddeback Capture camera trap

Bushbuck are mostly browsers (preferring leaves), but they will also eat some grass. They are mostly active during the night, but can also be seen during the day.

An interesting set of photographs I got showed a female Bushbuck covered in flies. She doesn't seem to be in particularly bad condition, so I'm not sure why she has such a large amount of flying pestering her.

A female Bushbuck covered in flies

These photographs also show the curious patch of bare skin (or short hair) at the back of the neck. I've noticed this spot on other Bushbuck as well. The patch of bare skin seems to be part of a short haired "collar" around the neck. Sadly I couldn't find any reference to it in any of the field guides, so it remains a mystery...

Clearly showing the patch of bare skin (or short hair) on the back of the neck

It has been a slow start at the Woody Cape, but there's still plenty to explore, so let's keep our fingers crossed!


  1. That male bushbuck is very impressive! The stripes on the legs are beautiful.

    Feel bad for those critters! Those files must be maddening....

  2. Interesting post. I noticed that the Bushbucks I saw in Uganda were much more vividly marked than the Bushbucks I saw in SA.
    I really look forward to finding out what else lurks in Woody Cape.

  3. Good shots Henry. How do they do their scent marking? Perhaps that's why their back gets that rubbed spot?

  4. Thanks for the comments guys :)

    @Trailblazer: Yes, I also like the white marking on their legs and feet.

    @John: Bushbuck vary a lot in colour across their range. I've also read that the species have been split into two (I think separating the southern and central African animals, although I'm unsure about what happens in the overlap since SA still only has one species.)

    @Randomtruth: I've also been wondering about the scent marking... I'll keep an eye open to any references ;)