Introduction to Puku

Puku is the common name for Kobus vardonii. They are usually found south of the equator where the temperature is 0 to 20°. Also, we can see them in the eastern part of the prime meridian at a temperature of 20 to 40°. It is a medium-sized antelope. From recent studies, it is estimated that the population of puku is around 1,30,000. Among this whole population, 1/3 of the population can be conserved and protected by various zoos and government authorities. So let us understand what is Puku?


What is Puku? 

The scientific classification of Puku gives a rough idea about what is puku. Puku belongs to the Animalia Kingdom. The phylum is Chordata. Puku is of mammalian class and has an order Artiodactyla. Also, the Puku family is Bovidae. The species and genus of Puku is Kobus vardonii.


Distribution and Habitat

The Puku is found in wet grasslands, River food plains, and savannas. The people were also found in Angola, Katanga, Malawi, Botswana, Tanzania, and Zambia. From recent studies, populations were estimated at 21,000 in Zambia and 54,600 Puku within Tanzania. More than half live in the Kilombero Valley of Tanzania. 1/3 of the population was protected by the zoos of various countries.

These medium-sized antelopes are very sensitive to the surrounding disturbances. Also, the mating and the movements of pukus change according to the climatic conditions. During the dry seasons, pukus elevate normally but during wet seasons, they record high elevations which range between 990m to 1550m. Also because of the continuous decline in the population of pukus, the international Union of conservation of nature declared these medium-sized antelopes as "Near Threatened." 


Physical Appearance of Puku

A detailed explanation of the physical appearance of puku can visualize the answer to the question of what is puku. 

The height of the puku is about 80 cm at the shoulder. The weight of puku is 60-90kgs. Coming to the length of puku, the head and the body length ranges from 126 to 160cms. The length of Puku's tail can grow up to 30 cm. The weight of male pukus is around 77kgs. On the other hand, the weight of the female pukus is 66kgs.

The fur of puku is about 32mm. But the colors of fur vary greatly. The majority of pukus have a golden yellow color fur. The puku has white color fur under the belly, neck, near the eyes, and upper lip also. The forehead of the puku is brown. The tail also has long hair. Another special characteristic of male pukus is horns. The female pukus don't have these horns. The horns are smooth at the tip side and the remaining is a strong and rigid surface. It is a lyr shaped organ.


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Pukus are of different types. For instance, terrestrial pukus and bachelor pukus. They can be differentiated using neck girths and glandular secretions. The terrestrial puku has neck girths and can excrete more hormones. Whereas the bachelor pukus can't excrete many hormones. They also have neck pouches, inguinal pouches, etc. The Puku's face has tiny glands. 


Reproductive System in Pukus

The Puku was sexually very active throughout the year. But especially after rain in the wet seasons, the pukus are very active and attracted to the opposite gender. Some evidence has proven that female pukus can select their mate. The territorial male pukus are polygons. But, the bachelor pukus may not show much interest to inmates with females. 

Usually, mating occurs in May and September. The gestation period is just 8 months and the calves can come during offsprings. Between January to April, the female pukus give birth to young calves. During offspring, the females act as hidders. The females can get lactation through heavy vegetation and qualitative forage. All these help the female pukus to cover their calves in offspring. 

After six months, the baby puku can wean and after 12 months, the puku will become sexually active. Puku can breed once for every offspring. As the calves are spending many months in hiding, they are not attached much to the female pukus. They started defending themselves. But at times, they will take mom's help. Now, let's see what is puku lifespan? It is just 17 years. A puku can live for 17years. As it can breed every year with three calves, if we protect and conserve pukus, the population will increase for sure in a short span. 


Behavior and Communication

Every puku can behave differently. For instance, territorial male pukus can be found in their places. But bachelor male pukus may not. They were found in herds. Especially male-only herds. Unlike these two, the female pukus were found in female herds. These herds have a group size of 6 to 20. They keep on changing their groups due to instability. But the territorial male pukus have more stability. They won't change their territory for a year at least. Pukus used to feed in the early morning and the late afternoon. 

Communication, an interesting thing while learning what is puku. Yes, pukus can communicate with each other by whistling. From an infant to an adult, every puku can whistle. Usually, young ones can whistle to call their mother. Territorial male pukus can whistle as an alarm to protect them from predators and to advertise themselves in front of female pukus. We know that the male pukus have horns. The territorial male pukus can use these horns for feeding also. First, they rub the horns on grass, and then the neck secretions were used to secrete and saturate it. 

Bachelor male puku can't survive when it enters into any territory. But if another territorial male puku enters, they inform it to others by wagging its tail. The territorial male pukus fight with the bachelor male focus even though the bachelor males are not aggressive. But there will be fights between two territorial male pukus at times. They fight each other with their horns and the winner gets to occupy the territory. This might have occurred very rarely.


Food and Diet

The pukus are herbivores. They completely depend on plants and leaves. Usually, Pukus prefer to eat different varieties of perennial grasses and crude protein-rich plants. These perennial grasses also change seasonally. Pukus always prefer to eat Eragrostis rigidity, a rich source of crude protein at their early stage. If the grass grows longer, the protein value reduces. In March, Brachiaria latifolia is the favorite food for Pukus. The tiny antelopes especially eat Digitaria setivalva. But it is only rich in protein but not in fiber content. As the pukus prefer to eat leaves and grass, they are also known as folivores or gramnivores. 


Predators/ Threats

Predators are the living things that cause harm to the Pukus. The major and the natural threats were caused by lions and leopards. Whenever the lion or a leopard attacks the puku, it gives an alarm or whistle to warn them and to intimate their friends. Lions and leopards are also known as natural predators. Another important predator to the puku is human beings. People create two different types of threats to puku. One is due to the increase in population day by day, they cut off the grasslands and convert them into their residential areas. This reduction in grasslands results in scarcity of food for the pukus. On the other hand, the unsustainable hunting of humans creates a massive loss of habitat. They don't have much ability to defend themselves from all the threats. Besides all these threats, vultures and hyenas act as scavengers to create additional harm to the Pukus.


Ecosystem and Conservation

Puku plays a significant role in the ecosystem. Even though it is a herbivore, it feeds on Flora, it acts as a grazing fauna for all the predators like leopards, lions, vultures, and hyenas. It is very good at structuring the grasslands. And it is not at all harmful for mankind. Humans have few benefits also. The puku acts as a tourist attraction and entertains humans as a gaming animal. Besides these, humans can hunt them for hides and food also. Humans have a lot of positive impacts and no negativity. 

Conservation of pukus is very important for maintaining proper flora and fauna. All the zoos and government authorities should come forward to take the responsibility of conserving these harmless pukus. Of course 1/3 of the population of puku's are under the protection and supervision of zoos, it is good to increase and adapt more species and conserve them properly. As the International Union of Conservation of nature declared these are "near threatened", it is every individual's responsibility to protect them from their threats. Government should implement the rules regarding the hunting of these animals strictly and to protect the grasslands as well as the antelopes. 


Final Thoughts

Hopefully, now it is clear and one can have a good idea about what is puku. Pukus are herbivore antelopes that belong to the animal kingdom. They have different types and species. Each behaves uniquely in their lifespan of 17 years. Their physical attributes like fur etc are quite attractive and make it a tourist attraction. Also, they won't do any harm to humans. So it is a responsibility for everyone to conserve the Pukus. 

FAQs on Puku

1. Explain the Mating Habits of a Puku?

Ans: Puku has a mating behavior of polygyny. It means a male puku can mate with more female pukus. They exhibit this behavior throughout the year. Especially May and September are the peak months for their mating behavior. The female puku is called a doe. And the male puku is called a buck. The doe can deliver a calf, the baby puku after eight months. This duration of eight months is known as the gestation period. The female pukus can give birth to young ones in hidden places. 


The calves can come out from hidden places after six months. They call their moms by whistling to grab their attention. They are not much attached to the female pukus. Also, calves are well enough to start breeding at the age of 12 months. 

2. Explain the Physical Characteristics of a Puku?

Ans: While explaining the physical attributes of a puku, the head and body length of a puku is around 126-160 cm. And their shoulder height is 90 cm. Also, 30 cm is the tail length with a soft tip. The male pukus are larger than the female pukus. The adult weight of male puku ranges between 67-91 kg. On the other hand, the female pukus are around 48-78 kg. 


Another interesting feature is it's fut. It is nearly 32 mm thick and is in different colors at different parts of the majority of the body parts have a golden yellow color. Some other body parts like under the neck, below the belly, at the eyes, the second half of the tail, the upper lip etc are white. The remaining parts are gray. The neck is brown in color. The strong muscular neck and whitish ring around the eyes etc make these pukus more attractive. These are the tourist attractions.

3. Who are the Major Predators of Pukus?

Ans: The major and natural predators of the Pukus are lions and leopards. The Pukus try to defend themselves and whistle as an alarm to the opponents as well as a sign to intimate their friends. Along with these predators, pukus also have some scavengers which include vultures and hyenas. As it is a medium sized antelope, the predators attack pukus and feed on them as their fauna.


Humans are also acting as predators for puku. Their unsustainable hunting and the increased livestock results in decreased grasslands. The reduction of grasslands shows much impact on their food. Also, unnecessary hunting attacks may result in the loss of habitat. Even though people are harmless to mankind, human beings are the greatest predators for pukus. This should be changed and the government needs to take necessary preventive steps to conserve the Pukus.

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