Standing 1.5m high and weighing up to 300kg, the Roan Antelope is one of the biggest antelope occurring in South Africa. Their black-and-white face masks and curiously long ears make them easily recognisable.
Roan Antelope are grazers, occurring in lightly wooded savannas and preferring areas with long grass and easy access to drinking water.
Breeding herds, usually numbering between 2 and 15 animals, consist of a dominant bull, cows and calves that occupy a specific home range of up to 200km² (the size of which depends on the availability of quality grazing and water sources) for generations. While they are not strictly territorial, the lead bull will not tolerate other bulls coming closer than 300 – 500m from his harem.
Single calves are born at any time of the year, though mostly in spring and summer, and remain hidden for the first 2 – 6 weeks after birth with the mother returning to it twice daily for nursing. Calves form “creches” once they are introduced to the herd, rather than constantly sticking to their mothers’ side. The curved horns of the adults are formidable weapons, and even lions are wary of attacking them, though calves are easy prey as they’ll try to remain hidden and will seldom attempt to flee when threatened by a predator, explaining in part why up to 40% of calves die before reaching 5 months of age. Roan Antelope have a natural life expectancy of up to 19 years in the wild.
In Africa as a whole, the roan population is estimated at around 76,000 by the IUCN, with an overall decreasing trend due to poaching and habitat loss. In South Africa they are a rare species, numbering perhaps 1,500 in total, with small populations to be found in the Kruger, Marakele and Mokala National Parks, a few provincial nature reserves and on some private properties.