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.
Believe it or not, impala are one of a kind! They are the only member of the genus Aepyceros that falls under the Bovidae family (which includes buffalo, sheep, goats, and cows). However, there are two sub-species, the common impala and the very rare black-faced impala, found only in Namibia and Angola.
Being an apex prey species, this graceful animal can jump up to 3m in height and 10m in length. Combine that with speeds of up to 60km/h and you will realize that they have an amazing skill set to evade predators. This being said, they sometimes, literally, just jump for joy. ‘Impala’ is the Zulu word for ‘gazelle’.
Only the males have horns, which are used for defence as well as an attack during the mating season. The horns take several years to reach full length and that is the reason that younger males do not challenge for dominance. A gland on the forehead of the rams produces a scent that informs their rivals of their status.
There is a common theory that female impala, have been known to delay giving birth if the weather conditions are harsh. Impala young are born in the middle of the day when their main predators are resting. The females synchronize their birthing so that there are large numbers of young as up to half of the newborns are killed within their first few weeks. Twice as many females as males are born annually.
Impalas have to drink every day, but as predators’ frequent waterholes at dawn or dusk, the impala is often seen drinking in the hottest part of the day when the chance of being attacked is reduced.
Most of the cat species will prey on both the adult impala as well as the youngsters and new-born. Baboons have been known to kill and eat smaller individuals as well.
Impalas are social animals and are usually never seen alone. Females and youngsters will live together in mixed herds with a dominant male, while the males will live in bachelor herds. There is an increase of males in a herd during the rutting season. Herd living has the advantage of confusing predators when they scatter.
There is another theory that surrounds impala (that has yet to be proven. It is thought that they produce a scent from glands on their hind legs, this scent is released when they kick high when they are airborne. The purpose of the scent is to enable the herd to regroup after they have scattered. Covering a wide range, they will migrate seasonally depending on food availability.
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