Ssese Island Sitatunga Uganda
by Peter Flack
Chris Kinsey, a highly experienced American hunter and a new Spiral Horned Antelope Club (SHAC) member, sent me the attached photos.
At first glance, they are of the wonderful, 24 ˝ inch (Rowland Ward minimum – 22 inches) Ssese Island sitatunga, which he shot in April of this year. If you look more closely, however, you will note a number of unusual features. There is a growth beneath each ear not too dissimilar to the scent glands found on antelope such as southern mountain reedbuck.
There is also a dark patch of bare skin extending from the corner of each eye and the coat is marked by a number of faint longitudinal stripes running parallel to the ribs, spots over the rump and, what looks for all the world, like a thick harness running at right angles to the lower ribs. When compared to the Ssese Island sitatunga which I shot on the same island, the two animals appear to be visually distinct, as mine had none of the markings referred to above. The Kinsey sitatunga, however, was shot in the rain forest bordering the main swamp while mine was shot in the swamp itself. Does this mean that there are two different types of Ssese Island sitatunga?
Kinsey Ssese Island Sitatunga Photo 1
As far as I am aware, although I could be wrong, none of the Kinsey sitatunga features appear on any of the other five or six Ssese Island sitatunga which have been shot over the last ten months since the hunting for this, the rarest of all sitatunga sub-species, was opened by the Uganda Wildlife Authority in the middle of last year. In questioning taxidermists, professional hunters and experienced amateur hunters, a number of possible reasons for the growths and bare patches have been given, for example, disease, age, poisoning, birth or genetic defects and so on.
Kinsey Ssese Island Sitatunga Photo 2
One experienced hunter who has hunted in Uganda, although not for sitatunga, on seeing a photograph of the Kinsey sitatunga, said that it looked like a cross between a Nile bushbuck and the normal East African sitatunga on the mainland, something which had crossed my mind but which I had not expressed out loud until I heard him echo my own thoughts.
Kinsey Ssese Island Sitatunga Photo 3
Both Chris and I have sent tissue samples of our sitatunga to Professor Terry Robinson, head of genetics at Stellenbosch University but, at present, he is unable to shed any light on our questions as there are insufficient data to make the necessary comparisons. Hence my request to all hunters, and SHAC members in particular, to send their sitatunga tissue samples to Terry.
Kinsey Ssese Island Sitatunga Photo 4
Flack Ssese Island Sitatunga Photo 5
Flack Ssese Island Sitatunga Photo 6
Kinsey Ssese Island Sitatunga Photo 7
Editor’s Note: Peter Flack’s article must be seen in conjunction with the photos of his sitatunga and the sitatunga taken by Chris Kinsley. Compare the two full body photos – the spot and stripes are obvious on the Kinsey sitatunga (photo 4), but absent on Flack’s animal (photo 5); the close up photos No 1 to 3, and photo 7 are showing the extensive area of the lachrymal pit and the growth under both ears of the Kinsey sitatunga.
Please contact the Spiral Horned Antelope Club and Peter Flack if you can contribute to solving this riddle.