The first animal we came upon after entering Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park were the springbok, and we were to see many, many, many (!) of them over the course of our week. The springbok is the national animal of South Africa. (Even the South African national rugby team ― the Springboks ― is named after the animal.)
These small antelope live on the dry grasslands of northwest South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana.
They’re not big animals ― less than a metre high at the shoulders ― but they can run as fast as 88 kilometres per hour.
Both males and females have horns. Fawns are usually born in the spring (October and November).
Often one springbok would be standing all on its own, some distance from the rest of the herd. Our guide said they were the look-out.
In the mid-afternoon heat, the animals squeeze together under a tree to take advantage of the shade.
Springbok comes from the Afrikaans words for “jump” (spring) and “antelope” (bok). When nervous or alarmed, the hairs underneath the tail stand up in a fan shape. The springbok can leap about two metres straight up into the air ― this is called pronging. We saw this for ourselves on the last day of our safari.
As we were driving, we saw a fawn that had become separated from its mother. The fawn was in the road ahead of us, and the mother was in the meadow, pronging up and down (literally bouncing: boing! boing! boing!) trying to find her fawn. Finally, the fawn hopped over the side of the road back into the meadow, and the two were united. We all cheered (and some of us even teared up at the happy reunion).
Of all the species of antelope we met on our Kalahari safari, the springbok was my favourite.