Bangweulu Tsessebe

Bangweulu Tsessebe

There are six sub-species of Tsessebe (or Topi) found in Southern Africa.  The Bangweulu Tsessebe (Damaliscus lunatus superstes) is only found in North Eastern Zambian, mainly living in the Bangweulu wetlands and on private game farms.

Tsessebes are the fastest antelopes.  They are known for surveying their home range by distinctively standing in a ‘sentry’ position on termite mounds.

The Bangweulu Tsessebe is a relatively new sub-species, being darker in colour and having a different cranial morphology than other sub-species – having wider skulls and longer and more robust horns.


Shoulder Height:  1.2 m

Weight:  125–140 kg


The Bangweulu Tsessebe is a large antelope with a long face and sloping back.  They have a short, smooth reddish brown coat with a fawn underbelly and a tasselled tail.  Males are normally darker than females.

Both males and females have ringed ‘lyre’ shaped horns.




Small herds live on floodplains, open grasslands close to water and the nearby woodlands.  Larger herds can be found where there is good grazing.  Their social organisation depends on density numbers – males are territorial and are more likely to defend females, and their young, in higher density herds.  Youngsters stay with their mothers until they are about a year old or until her next calf is born.  Single males live in bachelor herds.

Females breed at about 18 months, with a single young being born after a gestation period of about 240 days, usually at the end of the dry season.  Newborns can run with their mothers shortly after birth.

Tsessebe graze in the early mornings and late afternoon, on grasses, selecting the green leaves from the dryer grasses.  They rest during the day and at night.  In dry season they can walk up to 5 km to find water to drink.

They are the fastest antelope and can reach speeds of over 70 km/h.  They are very curious and have been known to stand and stare instead of fleeing if another member of their herd is shot.  Lion, hyena, leopard, cheetah, African Wild Dogs and jackal all prey on young Tsessebe.





Population:  estimated at 3,500

Trend:  increasing

Bangweulu Tsessebe are listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern

Tsessebe were one of the most common grasslands antelope until the 1900s.  Over the years they have been eliminated from their home ranges due to hunting, poaching and the degradation of their habitats because of the expansion of cattle farming.




Zambian Mole Rat

Zambian Mole Rat

The Zambian Mole Rat (Fukomys amatus) is a species of rodent that has adapted to live and forage underground.  They are rarely exposed to daylight.

These adaptations include having a high tolerance to carbon dioxide and low oxygen concentrations with a lower body temperature and resting metabolic rate than most other small mammals.

They are noted for living in very long tunnels, up to 2.8 km in length for a single colony of only 10 related individuals - digging longer tunnels than many other mammals.  They make their nest at the southern end of their tunnels, where the breeding pair lives, with densely branched tunnels fanning out from this nest.

Mole rats live in savannah bushland and miombo woodlands and can be found under urban gardens and golf courses in and around Lusaka and in Central Province.



Zambian Mole Rat
Photo from ARKive ©Gerhard Schulz


Length:  9-12 cm
Weight:  30-60 grams


The mole rat has light brown short fur covering a cylindrical-shaped body, with a loose skin that lets them easily shake off dirt.  This loose skin also enables them to turn around in their narrow burrows.

They have a large head, with small eyes.  They can only detect light and dark, having poor eyesight but they are thought to sense the earth’s magnetic field to help them to orientate through their burrows.  They have large ever growing incisor teeth.

Their streamlined body, and short limbs, allows them to easily move backwards and forwards in their narrow burrow.  Stiff hairs on their hind feet and tail helps them to hold onto soil whilst moving around.



Zambian mole rats are very social, living in family colonies consisting of a single breeding pair and their non-breeding offspring.  They remain with their parents, foraging and helping to maintain the family burrow.  These ‘eusocial’ family colonies are similar in social structure to termites and honeybees.

They are active both during the day and night, using their incisor teeth like a shovel to excavate their burrows by biting into the soil.  They keep soil out of their mouth with their strong muscular lips, located behind their incisors, and they sharpen their teeth by grinding their lower incisor against the upper ones.  Although they have limited hearing they do have a large vocal repertoire.

Mole rats are seasonally reproductive.  Just one female gives birth after a gestation period of about 100 days to a litter of 2 to 4 young, which are dark in colour.  Their fur lightens with age and they are weaned after 35 days.

They feed underground on roots, tubers, and invertebrates.

Zambian mole rats have been found to be more social than other mole rat species.  Their tunnels connect to neighbouring colonies which enables them to socialise and possibly find new mates and to also steal their neighbour's food.  In one study, four colonies were linked together by tunnels spanning over 7kms.

Mole rats have been known to live up to 20 years.




Population:  not known

Trend:  Decreasing

Zambian Mole Rats are listed on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened.

There is thought to be a continuous decline in their numbers.  This is due to over harvesting for food in urban areas and because they are considered as pests in gardens and on agricultural land.




Kafue Flats and Black Lechwe

Kafue Flats, Red and Black Lechwe

Lechwe are medium sized semi-aquatic antelope which are found close to permanent swamps and floodplains.

Zambia has three sub-species of Lechwe:

Red Lechwe (Kobus lechwe) are rufus-brown in colour with white undersides.  They mainly live in the Busanga Plains in Kafue National Park with smaller herds being found in the Lukanga Swamps and Zambezi Floodplains.  They can also be found in Botswana and Namibia.

Kafue Flats Lechwe (Kobus leche kafuensis) are light brown in colour, with white undersides and have dark shoulder patches with black leg markings.  These are the largest of the three sub-species and the males have significantly bigger horns.  They can be found on the Kafue Flats, with large herds living in Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon National Parks.

Black Lechwe (Kobus leche smithemani) have black and tan coats with a white underside.  Large herds can be found in the southern Bangweulu Swamps and they have been re-introduced into Nashinga Swamps near Chinsali.  They can also be found at Kasanka and Lusaka National Parks.

The Kafue Flats and Black Lechwe are only found in Zambia.

Black Lechwe - Lusaka National Park


Shoulder Height:  85–110 cm
Length:  130-180 cm
Weight:  60-120 kg

Lechwe have long greasy coats, which differs in colour between the sub-species.  Only males have long, lyre-shaped, ringed horns.  Females are smaller and lighter in colour than males

Their hindquarters are noticeably higher than their shoulders, they have a short muzzle and the tip of their tail has black hairs.  Lechwe have elongated and spreading hooves, which prevents them from sinking into the swampy ground.




All sub-species of Lechwe are water-loving, taking to the water to feed and when they feel threatened.  They follow seasonal floodwaters and will only take refuge in woodlands if flooding is extreme.

Lechwe can be found in huge groups of thousands of animals, which are segregated into smaller gregarious herds of females with their young, territorial rams and, bachelors herds.  They are active in the early mornings and late afternoons, lying down during the heat of the day and at night.  They are slow moving on dry land, but can move rapidly in shallow waters and they are good swimmers.

During breeding season, which occurs during the rainy season, solitary rams establish territories and compete with other males for females – this is called ‘lekking’.  Males hold small areas (called 'leks') and will fight to hold prime locations in the centre of the herd, where there is greater access to females.  A single lamb is born after a gestation period of about 230 days.  A mother will initially conceal her young on dry land while she goes in search of food.

Lechwe graze on nutrient rich semi-aquatic grasses and herbs and can be found wading up to their shoulder height to find grasses.

They out-run predators by bounding and leaping through the waters, being propelled by their powerful hind quarters.  They can live for up to 15 years and are naturally preyed on by lions, leopard, cheetah, hyena, pythons and crocodiles.  When frightened they stand in the water, completely submerged, leaving only their nostrils exposed.


Black Lechwe population size:  50,000
Trend:  increasing

Kafue Flats Lechwe population size:  less than 40,000
Red Lechwe population size:  5,000
Trend: decreasing

All three sub-species are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List

Although numbers of Black Lechwe in the Bangwelu Swamps are increasing, the numbers of Kafue Flat and Red Lechwe are decreasing due to increased poaching in and around the National Parks where they live.

Drought, and the diversion of water for agriculture and hydro-electricity projects have also had a major impact on their habitats and numbers.  The Kafue Flats are also used for livestock grazing with the peripheral area being densely settled by people, particularly to the south.  These have had a major impact on the Kafue Flats Lechwe whose numbers have decreased from around 90,000-100,000 animals in the early 1970’s, to less than 40,000 animals today.

IUCN Red List