A Sound as Ancient as the Land

April is a magical time of year in the bush. The last of the summer rains have normally passed so the bush starts to turn a beautiful golden brown. The short bush Autumn starts to take place so the days are still warm but the nights are starting to cool, perfect for sitting around the fire or snuggling down into your sleeping bag. The days start to get a bit shorter and the nights longer, giving us more time to admire the beauty of the cosmos.

Something else magical also happens when it starts to cool. In Selati the Impala rutting season started this April.

What is the Impala Rut?

This is the time of year when the male ram’s testosterone escalates, so the males who are normally fairly chilled out start to become more aggressive. Why? Well, they are fighting for dominance over other males to win the breeding rights over the female herds. You always know when the Impala rut has started as the grunting and snorting sounds the males can be heard over long distances at all times day and night.

SOME COOL FACTS ABOUT THE IMPALA RUT:

  • The male Impalas will sometimes damage their horns in their attempts to win the ladies. Unlike their Deer cousins, the horns will never grow back. Their horns are strong, with lots of ridges and Lyre shaped which allows fighting males to interlock their horns and throw off their opponents.
  • Once a male has taken over his herd of females, he is so busy mating and fighting off other males that he doesn’t really have time to eat or groom himself. He loses condition very quickly. It’s rare for a male to hold onto a group of females for more than a week. This allows another male to take over the herd. This means that within any given herd the offspring may have several different fathers, this increases their genetic mix and gives the offspring with the strongest genes the best chance of survival.
  • Males will only mate with a female once, after that he loses interest in her, which means that if she doesn’t fall pregnant on this attempt, she will still be able to mate with other males.
  • There is an African saying, every morning the Gazelle wakes up knowing it has to run faster than the lion, every morning the Lion wakes up knowing it has to run faster than the Gazelle. This is also true for the Impalas. If the male Impalas can’t get themselves back into top condition quickly or are too distracted protecting their females then they may fall prey to a hungry lion or leopard.
  • Male Impalas are sexually mature when they are about a year old, however as they are not strong enough to out-compete the older dominant males, they generally won’t get any reproductive rights until they are around four years old.

All this rutting means one thing, that in around 200 days’ time, when the African summer rains should be starting again, we will have lots of baby Impala calves running around.

Learn the facts: All you need to know about Impala

When driving into a nature reserve or National Park, the first mammal you are most likely going to spot is the Impala, they are possibly the most common antelope in the bush. But next time you get a chance, take a moment and get your binoculars on these spectacular antelope, they are truly beautiful. In this video, we share some interesting facts about Impala. Watch the video to learn more.

About the Author: 

Emma Summers is an EcoTraining Camp Manager at Selati Game Reserve.