Impala comes from the Zulu word meaning Gazelle.
There are thought to be approximately two million impala across Africa. Their abundance is attributed to their extraordinary skills of adaptation. Unlike most ungulates Impala have developed the ability to become either grazers or browsers dependent on the availability of food and they also have an amazing ability to survive without drinking for weeks as long as they have access to green vegetation.
Thanks to this resilience they are classed as animals of least concern on the IUCN Redlist.
Impalas are a healthy fast-food for Leopards, Cheetahs, Lions and Wild Dogs. Low in fat, but oh so tasty!
Hate having to share a room with your brothers and sisters? Be glad you’re not an Impala, they can form herds of up to two hundred!! Fed up with your brother? In impala herds boys can sometimes be kicked out after they have been weaned. This results in gangs of bachelor Impala roaming the savannah.
When food is plentiful adult males will establish territories – either by use of scent glands on their faces or by building dung heaps – watch where you stand!
Female impala can pass through the territories whilst looking for the best food, however bachelor impala must stay in their own territories. The territories with the best food and water supplies will encourage more female impala meaning that the male is more likely to contribute his DNA to the gene pool. It can get lonely defending your territory and chasing all the other males away, so quite often the male impala will try to prevent the female impalas from leaving – quite often this is done by faking danger just outside of the territory boundary to trick the female impala into staying.
When food is scarce however territories are abandoned as the herds must move to find water and food.
Rutting (the breeding season) occurs in May at the end of the wet season. Rams have horns which can reach up to 90cm in length which are used during rutting to establish control over other males.
Usually rutting lasts only three weeks with the young born after 6-7 months. However Impala females are very clever and have the ability to delay the birth for another month if the conditions are harsh. Like humans, female impalas like their privacy when giving birth and will separate themselves form the herd. The mother will then stay with the fawn in a safe spot or even leave it in hiding for a few days or even weeks before returning to the herd. When in the herd the fawn will join the nursery group and only go to its mother to feed or to hide from predators. Fawns are suckled for four to six months.
Run, run as fast as you can…
Impala have a really cool way of confusing predators. Imagine this, you’re a poor hungry Lioness and you’ve managed to sneak up on a herd of Impala when all of a sudden just as you’re standing within pouncing distance of the herd the wind changes and they smell you. Annoying hey? Then imagine that all of a sudden two hundred impala start jumping around you. Impala can jump distances of up to 10 metres and can jump approximately 3 metres high and they’re quick. So, just as soon as you single one impala out of the blur of colour that now surrounds you, it’s gone. You try again, following this one as it circles you, but no, gone again.
You’re pretty dizzy by this point when all of a sudden the impala all run. They can run at speeds of 80-90kmh (50-56mph) and they can change direction so quickly that if you blink you won’t know where they have gone. Impalas couple this amazing speed with the ability to be able to run quietly through the bush, most of us humans can’t manage 3 steps before we inevitably stand on a branch, but the impala with their tiny feet and nimble legs make it looks easy.
To stop them getting lost during these quick runs, impala have scent glands on their heels and as they are run they perform high kicks with their hind legs which releases a scent to help them stay together.