What are Puku?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Visitors to game reserves in Congo and Zambia may spot puku.
Visitors to game reserves in Congo and Zambia may spot puku.

Puku are antelope found in parts of Congo and Zambia in Africa. These stocky antelope are sometimes a bit less graceful than their more famous kin, but they are still quite lovely. People who want to see puku in person can organize safari trips to Africa, where they will see an assortment of wildlife, or they can visit a local zoo, if they want something a bit closer to home.

Zambia and Congo are the only two countries in Africa where puku can be found.
Zambia and Congo are the only two countries in Africa where puku can be found.

Adult puku are around three feet (one meter) tall at the shoulder, with sandy brown coats which lighten to creamy brown on their underbellies. They have dark markings on their faces and around their ears, and the males have curved, ridged horns like their relatives the impalas. Puku are very muscular, with bodies which are designed for rapid running in the event that they encounter predators.

Most puku prefer wet grassland, although they will tolerate open woodlands and bush. They roam in social herds of 20-50 individuals, with herds growing larger in the dry season, when the animals sometimes join forces for protection. Each herd is overseen by a single male, who typically tries to encourage females to remain within his territory. These antelope can live to be around 17 years old, and sometimes even older in captivity.

Female puku have an eight month gestation period, and they wean their young after about six months. After around a year, the young puku are sexually mature; the animals breed year round, although breeding tends to be concentrated in the rainy season, when resources are plentiful. In social groups, puku use a distinctive shrill whistle to indicate dangers to the herd.

Puku share their Central-Southern African habitat with a variety of other African animals who also enjoy the floodplains and valleys of their home. These animals include other antelope species along with predators like hyenas and African wildcats.

These animals are formally known as Kobus vardonii. Their conservation status is generally viewed as secure, although some biologists are concerned about habitat encroachment. Puku are also threatened by fencing of farmlands, game preserves, and territories, which is sometimes done to protect wild animals from poachers or farmers who are upset about animal damage to their crops. Along with other antelope, puku are treated as game animals; game farms outside of Africa occasionally import puku for people who wish to pursue them.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon71814

Most of the world's puku antelope actually live in Tanzania (around 75-80 percent of the total in the south of Tanzania in the Kilobero Valley).

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    • Visitors to game reserves in Congo and Zambia may spot puku.
      By: Photocreo Bednarek
      Visitors to game reserves in Congo and Zambia may spot puku.
    • Zambia and Congo are the only two countries in Africa where puku can be found.
      By: bogdanserban
      Zambia and Congo are the only two countries in Africa where puku can be found.