The kéwel or harnessed bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) is a small to medium-sized antelope widespread in west and central Africa. Formerly and alongside the imbabala it was generically known as the bushbuck, however, it has since been found to be a species in its own right, with a separate geographic distribution. Of all the other tragelaphine antelopes, the kéwel is most closely related to the nyala (Tragelaphus angasi).
The kéwel is distributed from Senegal and southern Mauritania across the Sahel, east to Ethiopia and Eritrea, and south to Angola and the southern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is common across this broad geographic distribution and is found in wooded savannas, forest-savanna mosaics; penetrating into some of the rain forest zones of the southern Central African Republic, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo; in montane forests of the Bamenda Highlands and Mount Cameroon; and in the semi-arid zones of the Ethiopian lowlands and Eritrea. It does not occur in the deep rain forests of the central Congo Basin.
Description and genetics
The kéwel is in general smaller than other tragelaphines, with a mainly red or yellow-brown ground colour. It is conspicuously striped with several vertical and at least one horizontal stripe and there is little to no sexual dimorphism with respect to patterning and ground colouration. It has been referred to as the harnessed antelope or guib harnaché. The conspicuousness of its patterning tends to attenuate slightly in a west to east cline along the species range, being least striking in the decula population of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Seven other genetically-based population groupings exist, some do not correspond to previously described subspecies. The nominate scriptus population occurs in west Africa including Senegal, Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, while two populations occur along the upper and lower Volta River valley in Ghana, respectively, one in the Niger Basin in Nigeria as far east as the Cross River, phaleratus south of the Bamenda Highlands through Cameroon, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo to northern Angola, bor from Lake Chad and the Chari River across the Central African Republic to the Nile, and lastly dodingae east of the Nile in lowland areas of southern Sudan and northern Uganda.
As the first of the bushbucks to be described by Pallas in 1766 as Antilope scripta from Senegal, it retains the original species name for the bushbuck. Its common name, Kéwel, is taken from the Wolof language spoken in Senegal. As most studies of the bushbucks have focused on the imbabala (Tragelaphus sylvaticus), very little is known about the biology of the kéwel, except for what can be gleaned from museum specimens and hunting trophies.
- Moodley Y, Bruford MW, Bleidorn C, Wronski T, Apio A, Plath M (2008) Analysis of mitochondrial DNA data reveals non-monophyly in the bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) complex. Mammalian Biology, doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2008.05.003
- Moodley Y, Bruford MW. (2007) Molecular biogeography: Towards an integrated framework for conserving pan-African biodiversity. PLoS ONE. 2:e454.
- Wronski T, Moodley Y. (2009) Bushbuck, harnessed antelope or both? Gnusletter, 28(1):18-19.