|Juvenile red lechwe in the Okavango Delta, Botswana|
The lechwe, or southern lechwe, (Kobus leche) is an antelope found in Botswana, Zambia, southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, northeastern Namibia, and eastern Angola, especially in the Okavango Delta, Kafue Flats and Bangweulu Swamps.
Lechwe stand 90 to 100 cm (35 to 39 in) at the shoulder and weigh from 70 to 120 kg (150 to 260 lb). They are golden brown with white bellies. Males are darker in colour, but general hue varies depending on subspecies. The long, spiral-structured horns are vaguely lyre-shaped, they are found only in males. The hindlegs are somewhat longer in proportion than in other antelopes, to ease long-distance running in marshy soil.
Lechwe are found in marshy areas where they eat aquatic plants. They use the knee-deep water as protection from predators. Their legs are covered in a water-repellant substance which allows them to run quite fast in knee-deep water.
Lechwe are diurnal. They gather in herds which can include many thousands of individuals. Herds are usually all of one sex, but during mating season they mix.
Male red lechwe fighting in the Okavango Delta (1 of 5)
Traditionally, four subspecies of the lechwe have been recognized. Additionally, the Upemba lechwe, which only was described in 2005, is treated as a subspecies of the lechwe by some authorities.
- Red lechwe or Zambesi lechwe (K. l. leche) - most of range, overall tawny-fawn with black to front of front legs
- Kafue lechwe or brown lechwe (K. l. kafuensis) - Kafue Flats, as previous, but front legs almost entirely black, vulnerable.
- Roberts' lechwe or Kawambwa lechwe (K. l. robertsi) - formerly near Kawambwa, extinct.
- Black lechwe or Bangweulu lechwe (K. l. smithemani) - Bangweulu Swamps, adult males blackish, vulnerable
- Cape lechwe or Venter's lechwe (K. l. venterae) - now extinct, but formerly inhabited the marshes and fens of the North West, Free State, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape Provinces of South Africa, as far south as Cradock and Tarkastad
- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Kobus leche. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 10 May 2006. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
- Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
- Haltenorth, T. & H. Diller. 1980. Mammals of Africa including Madagascar. Harpercollins Publishers. ISBN 0-00-219778-2
- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Kobus leche ssp. kafuensis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 23 July 2008.
- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Kobus leche ssp. robertsi. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 23 July 2008.
- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Kobus leche ssp. smithemani. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 23 July 2008.
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