Bontle’s Springhares

I know of no place better than Bontle Camp in the Marakele National Park to more reliably see our very own African kangaroos, or Springhares to give them their proper English name even though they’re not hares either!

Pedetes capensis

The Springhare is a large rodent, measuring up to 90cm in length and weighing between 2.5 and 3.5kg. Their mode of propulsion is unique among mammals in sub-Saharan Africa, jumping kangaroo-like as they move around and covering up to 2m in a single bound.

They inhabit areas with compact, but not hard, soil – usually sandy or sedimentary – in which they very prodigiously tunnel their own burrows of up to 140m in extent. Each individual Springhare lives in its own burrow system, except for females who’d share it with their latest baby, and these have several entrances, side tunnels and escape holes. They’ll often block the tunnel entrance behind them once they’ve entered it. These tunnels are important refuges for many other kinds of animals that shelter in holes in the ground. While several Springhares may have tunnels in near proximity to one another they’re not social animals.

Female Springhares give birth to a single young (very seldomly twins) at any time of year after a 3 month gestation period. The baby stays in the mother’s tunnels until it is weaned at about 2 months of age. Females may have between 2 and 4 young every year. They only live to about 6 years old in the wild.

Springhares are a favourite prey of almost every predator on the continent, humans included. They are active at night and do not emerge from their burrows until total darkness falls well after sunset. They forage near their burrows to enable a quick escape, and feed mainly on grass (roots, stems and blades), bulbs and herbs. Springhares are often considered a pest in farmlands where they can do considerable damage to crops.

The Southern African Springhare (P. capensis) is found in portions of all South Africa’s provinces with the exception of Kwazulu-Natal and the Western Cape. Beyond our borders their distribution extends northwards to the southern DRC. The East African Springhare (P. surdaster) from Kenya and Tanzania was recognized as a closely related but distinct species in the 1990’s. The IUCN considers both species of Springhare to be of least concern.


9 thoughts on “Bontle’s Springhares

  1. sustainabilitea

    With nighttime photos where the animals eyes look like that, they always look demented or demonic. 🙂 Poor things.

    We’re getting closer to the end of the tournament but that Fiji game was so sad. We could have won but there were a couple of mistakes that cost us. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person


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