The Nyala’s of Selati – Interesting facts about the Nyala by Emma Summers

Of all the antelope that hang around EcoTraining Selati Camp, the Nyala are the friendliest. Whilst the Kudu and the Impala will stare at you for a split second, alarm call and run away, the Nyala will just stand there, staring at you with those expressive, big black eyes and massive eyelashes. Sometimes; if you’re lucky they will calmly walk close to you.

In some cultures, it is believed that Nyala were humans in a past life, explaining why they are so comfortable around us. We are lucky to have some female Nyala and their offspring that call the camp home. There are also several older males and other females that wander through the camp from time to time in search of food or water.

Cashew – mother to Nutmeg (male), Decaf (male), and Kola born Aug 2021.
Photograph © Emma Summers

I am lucky to have been witness to births and deaths. To have seen those early shacky steps, witness a female passing the afterbirth then eating it, to watch them grow up, mating, seeing them have offspring of their own and also meeting a sad ending, whether by becoming food to some hungry Lions or succumbing to drought.

Interesting Nyala facts

  • Their species name is Tragelaphus Angasii.
  • Nyalas are sexually dimorphic.  This means that the two sexes, although the same species have a difference in appearance, weight, color, etc. The male Nyala is an ash/charcoal grey with yellowish legs – it almost looks like they are wearing socks and the females are a chestnut color.  Males are also significantly bigger than the females the males weighing approx. 107kg and the females approx. 62kg.
Peanut disappeared presumed dead in 2021 – mother of Latte
Photograph © Emma Summers
Pistachio – when he was a young adult male.
Photograph © Emma Summers
  • Both males and females have white spots on their faces beneath their eyes. It almost looks like a person has got paint on their fingertips and then touched a Nyalas face.  These spots can also be found on their thighs and stomachs. If you ever look closely at these spots, you will see that they vary from Nyala to Nyala which means that you can use them as a way to tell different Nyala apart.
  • They have white stripes across their backs and sides. These stripes and spots act as disruptive markings helping them to camouflage.
  • Only the males have shallow corkscrew horns with a yellow tip. No one really knows why the tips are colored.
  • When they are young the males look like the females, possibly to stop any jealous behavior from the adult males. It’s only as they get older their coats start to darken and their horns start to develop.
  • They are food for hungry Lions, Wild Dogs (Painted Wolves), hyenas, and Leopards.
Decaf just starting to get his horns.
Photograph © Emma Summers
Latte
Photograph © Emma Summers
  • Ram, Ewes, Cows, Bulls. How do you know what to call different antelope males and females? Easy with male Antelopes anything smaller than the male Nyalas are rams, Nyala and bigger are bulls. Female Nyala and smaller are ewes, anything bigger is cows.
  • Adult males rarely have to fight each other for dominance. Instead, they prefer to settle their dominance arguments by using lateral displays. This is quite a show. The males will raise the white hair on the crest of their backs, curl their tails, and size each other up by very slowly walking past each other. After several minutes the submissive bull will withdraw and the winner declared, with both of them then going off to feed or groom themselves.
  • They have a wide and varied diet. They are both browsers and grazers. They will eat fruit, flowers, leaves, and grasses. This varied diet has helped them to survive in a range of diverse habitats and means that they always have plenty of food to eat all year round.
Odd – so-called because his horns aren’t both symmetrical.
Photograph © Emma Summers
Cashew with Kola.
Photograph © Emma Summers

While you are in the camp don’t forget to take time to observe them. Watch them while they are drinking water out of the bird baths, observe how their mouths suck up water, watch their necks pulsate as they swallow. Observe the playful behavior of the youngsters, the affections of a mother and her newborn, how the older males interact with each other, and how the younger males try to imitate them. Marvel in their beauty and elegance and appreciate the interactions these wild animals allow us to have with them.

Selati Camp l What you can expect

Take a virtual walk through the EcoTraining Selati camp and the majestic vistas that encompass this incredible game reserve. Selati Game Reserve is situated between the towns of Gravelotte and Mica, west of Phalaborwa, in the Limpopo province of South Africa, the reserve has an area of about 30,000 Ha.

About The Author

Written by Emma Summers

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