The Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) is a small to medium-sized antelope occurring in southern Africa (Angola, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Lesotho). The species’ name originates in their peculiar behaviour of commonly leaping into the air. The animals show this “pronking” while being nervous or excited, possibly when predators are around. A standing jump can be more than 3 metres high. The reasons for this behaviour are not completely known, but it has been proposed that the antelopes show predators that they have been detected and that they are too fit and not worth a hunt.
Indeed, springboks are no easy prey as they are among the fastest mammals on the planet! They can reach a speed of almost 90 km/h sharing a second place behind the Cheetah with the American Pronghorn and the Indian Blackbuck. The Springbok favors open savannahs as its habitat. Due to its beauty and abundance throughout its range, the species has been used as the mascot for several South African sports teams, on stamps and bank notes, as well as on a series of other emblems and logos. Nevertheless, as many of these uses began during the apartheid their popularity has decreased. The South African Airways, for example, decided to stop using the Springbok as their symbol in 1997. Albeit their popularity, the animals were strongly hunted during the last centuries – for their meat, but also to “protect” fields. In consequence, the species became almost completely extinct in South Africa at the end of the 19th century and had to be reintroduced in the coming decades. Today, populations amount to a stable 600,000 individuals and especially in Namibia, Springboks can be seen throughout the countryside as shown by my photographs taken during a journey in February 2007.