Impala (Aepyceros melampus
Impala, in their herds of batchelors or harems, with a dominant male are commonplace in Kenyan Game Parks and reserves. They are a medium-sized Antelope, delicately built and graceful, with glossy rufous-fawn upperparts, paling towards the bottom, where they have white underparts, throat and chin. The tail is white, with a line of black down the centre. A black line is also on each buttock, earning them the nickname "McDonalds", after the food chain's logo. A diagnostic feature is the tuft of black hair on the rear of each back leg. Only Rams have horns, which are long, S-shaped and lyre-like, with heavy rings along most of the length.
Males weigh approximately 8 stone (50Kg) and females 6 stone (40Kg). They are approximately 3ft (90cm) at the shoulder. Resident
Impala are most common in Kenya's Mara GR, Samburu, Meru, Nairobi and Tsavo, in open or light savanna woodlands. Only seen in open grasslands if there is cover nearby. Longevity
Breeding is timed to coincide with the rainy season. Single Impala fawns are dropped, weighing approximately 11lbs (5Kg), after a gestation period of six and a half months, although ewes can delay birthing for up to a month if grazing conditions are not good. New born fawns are kept in long grass for a week, before grouping together in creches and becoming part of a nursery herd. The fawn will suckle for apporoximatly 5 months, before being weaned. Impala males become sexually mature at 1 year old, but are unlikely to mate until their 4th year. Females mate for the first time at approximately 18 months old. Impala live for up to 14 years in the wild. Predators
The main predators of Impala are Cheetah
and Wild Dogs. Generally, they are too fast for Lion
Nursery herds of ewes and fawns may wander from the main herd, crossing the seasonal territories of many rams. Batchelor herds generally stay not far away from breeding herds and perform a rut, where the strongest wins the opportunity to breed. When the breeding season starts, dominant rams separate 15 - 20 ewes, sometimes more, for mating. He will remain the dominant ram for up to 3 months, being challenged by other rams constantly.
Along with chasing his females, to keep them within his harem, smelling their urine with curled-up lips (the Flehmen response
) and mating, it's an intense time. During which, he grows black shadows beneath his eyes and seemingly, the darker the shadows, the nearer his time-limit with the harem becomes.
Impala are highly accomplished jumpers, being able to clear 10 feet (3 metres) high, or 35 feet (10 metres) long. This enables them to escape capture by predators, or occasionally do it for fun. Running and leaping into the air, the females run round in circles, through bushes, to the accompanyment of the male, who bellows ferociously. Diet
Impala are both browsers and grazers. They eat according to the food in the area and rainfall - grazing when the grass is green and on foliage when the grass is brown. They actively eat during the cooler hours of the day and at night, resting under shade during the hot hours and being ruminants, chew the cud. When eating grass, they prefer shorter grass - not just because new shoots are juicier, but to allow sight across the savanna to spot predators. They are not usually seen far from water, but can exist on dew for moisture for long periods. Other Impala Facts
The scientific name, Aepyceros melampus, in Greek means 'High Horned' and 'Black Footed'.
During the rut, males bellows, roars and snorts can be heard 2 kilometres away.
When a herd of Impala are attacked, they disappear in all directions, but release scent from glands in their rear shins, enabling all to get back together, once danger has passed. Photographs
Images taken in Kenya's Masai Mara, Nairobi National Park and Olare Orok Conservancy.