Impala

An impala antelope pauses in the coolness of the early morning.

The impala occurs in abundance across all Southern Africa's major wilderness areas.

Name:
Impala
Scientific Name:
Aepyceros melampus
Weight
50Kg (M) 40Kg (f)
Shoulder Height:
90cm (M) 80cm (F)
Mating Season:
April / May

Description

The Impala is a very lean and slender antelope, with long legs and a narrow body covered by light fur on their abdominal skin and a light red-orange color on their back, the outer parts of their legs and their face. Their tails are distinctly black. Their horns are quite big in comparison with their bodies and are curled outwards and then bent in. The average size of these animals is between 53kg and 76kg (117 and 167lb) among males while females bring up the rear end of the weight scale of this species with average weights ranging from 40kg to 53kg (88 to 117lb).

Distribution

The Impala is found mostly on the Eastern end of Sub-Saharan Africa, starting from areas of the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa and stretching as far north as parts of central Kenya. In between these two extremes of their range is the Kruger National Park and northern parts of South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, the famed Zambia and Victoria falls, Tanzania and of course Kenya itself. The Black-faced Impala occurs on the opposite end of the spectrum, in one localized area of the eastern parts of Southern Africa alone; in parts of Namibia including the Etosha National Park.

Status

Arguably one of the most if not the most abundantly found species of antelope in Southern Africa, the Impala is most definitely in no conservational harm at the moment. They have a very strong population of over 2 Million members, most of which fall either in protected areas or on private land, an approximate 25% and 50% respectively. Overall the species is very stable and is still found in most areas they historically resided in. The black-faced Impala, a distinct sub-species, on the other hand is nearing endangerment, mainly due to its rarity even naturally, only being naturally found in specific areas within Namibia. 

Habitat

Impalas are widely found on grassland and savanna areas, but usually on the edge due to their preference for shorter grass, less dense patches of grass to feed on, in addition to the bushes and shrubs from which they browse on leaves, pods, shoots and seeds. They are generally quite dependent on water in the dry season, but are usually able to sustain themselves on green vegetation whenever it is available, although this is most frequently during the wet or rainy season. These specifications include a variety of different habitats in the Kruger, although mostly in the southern and very northern parts which aren’t dominated by the fowl tasting leaves of Mopane leaves.

Social Organization

Impalas males are territorial animals, but in a different way than most other antelopes. At the end of the wet season, when these animals reproduce, males maintain territories to attract female herds, but form bachelor herds or roam the landscape solitarily in the dry season. This is mainly due to prioritization, finding food outweighs maintaining a territory only to mate within a few weeks of the year. This has created lots of confusion about whether or not these animals are territorial. Furthermore females and offspring form separate herds, but also change shape and size throughout the year, even day to day as members move back and forth.

Social Behavior

Among Impalas, communication through scent is also a very important thing. Dominant males secrete a strong smelling mixture from many glands that coat their fur, and oddly enough also produce secretions containing their scent for the skin of their forehead. The frequently rub their forehead against rocks and tree stumps when behaving territorially during mating season. Males also have larger necks and a stronger build during this time due to the peaks in testosterone levels. When showing supremacy and defending territory, rams can produce a spectacular roar which can be heard up to 2km away.

Reproduction

Males, as always, enthusiastically approach females as soon as they pass through his territory, and the courting begins. Females are able to conceive from as young as1 ½ years, although males are only able to compete viably for females after they are over 4 years of age.  Low-stretching and urine testing takes place, and the two lick each other after which copulation takes place. Hereafter the pair go their separate ways, although a male might mate with quite a few females before living out the rest of his year with fellow males or isolation. Gestation lasts for between 194 and 200 days or about 6 ½ months for females, in usual cases.

Anti-Predator Behavior

The denser nature of the environment in which Impalas live make them more vulnerable to predators and they are easy prey for most large carnivores for this reason. Impalas are, because of this, very quick to run or jump when hearing even the smallest sound from nearby bushes or thickets. Lions, spotted hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs and crocodiles are all frequent feeders of Impalas, and large predatory birds and pythons can be added to that list when it comes to their young. Their strong jumping capabilities greatly help them outrun many enemies when in flight, and their strength in numbers is what makes a herd survive generation after generation.

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