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 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.
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.