Habitats - environmental histories

The existence of blue antelope is entwined with colonial history. Its afterlife is an artefact of human cultural imagination, a life mainly figured within western science. Traces found that precede European settlement are fragments that hint at greater abundance - of grass, of animals. Hints, fragments, offering mute histories of the coexistence of animals and humans.

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Prehistory Historical Museums
Palaeontological Historical Museums

Images © Hunterian Museum / Glasgow University

Descriptions of the habitats and cultural histories of blue antelopes have different fields of vision. Reports by early European travellers to the Cape are the most usual starting point, pivoting on the expansion of the Dutch East India Company's trading empire. The animal's taxonomic status, distribution and ecology is cast back in time by Klein's archaeological work. This alludes to the influence of environment - climate, relief, vegetation - and use of land by people. Linguistic traces allow Jared Diamond to describe at a sweep the migration of agricultural and pastoral practices into Southern Africa.

Blue antelopes lived in the southernmost part of the Cape where rain falls winter, while to the north summer rains prevailed. The area they occupied was settled by humans to farm for food, servicing the East India Company and later the British Empire. This area is classified today a 'hotspot' of biodiversity - the Cape Floral Kingdom or Fynbos Biome being the smallest of the wold's seven domains. The fynbos and renosterveld they ranged is a profusion of shrubby form - and, in spring, colour. This flora is itself is now endangered - by development for essential needs and for human luxury, but above all, by climate change.

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South African Flora