ImpalaScientific Name Aepyceros melampus                            

Conservation Status Least Concern 

Appearance

Impala are most noticeable as a result of their curved horns which are only present on males. These are coloured black, ridged and can grow to be 90cm (35.5in) long.

The impala has red-brown fur. On their belly, chin, lips, inner ears, tail and a line above the eyes are white. Down the tail across the forehead, the thighs and the tips of the ears are black.

Males grow to be 75-92cm (30-36in) tall at the shoulder with females being slightly shorter at 70-85cm (28-33in). From the head to the start of the tail both males and females measure 120-160cm (47-63in). The bushy tail adds 30-45cm (12-18in) to this length.

Lifespan                                                                                  

This species lives for between 12 and 15 years.

Diet

Impalas are herbivores. This species is readily adaptable to its environment switching back and forth from being a grazer and a browser as the seasons change. They will feed on grasses, herbs, shrubs, shoots, bushes, fruits and acacia pods. Their preferred source of food is grass.

When searching for water the impala prefers to drink water from lakes or rivers. If this is not an option though they can get their moisture needs from green vegetation.

Habitat

Africa is the native home of the impala. Here they can be found throughout Angola, Botswana, Kenya, ImpalaMalawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It has also been introduced to Gabon.

In Burundi this species has been driven to extinction.

They inhabit woodland with small amounts of undergrowth and grassland. Their territory is normally near a water source.

Reproduction

Breeding season for the impala (known as the rut) begins during March. During this time the males coat darkens, the neck thickens and they acquire a musky odor.

Males vie for the females affections by marking out a territory and fighting males who enter it. They will also walk stiffly while displaying their horns.

A male who wins the right to mate will find a female who is ready to mate by testing their urine. Once a male identifies that a female is receptive he will draw her attention by roaring, snorting and doing low stretches. Then he will chase her around gradually slowing to a walk. Before mating begins they will nod and flick their tongues.

A baby is normally born 194-200 days after a successful mating. At birth the calf weighs 5kg (11lb). The birth takes place away from the herd with the female returning a few days later.

Once it has grown a bit the young impala will join a crèche, which is a group of young who can learn to Impalagroom, play and move as a herd.

At 4 and a half months old the youngster is weaned. Males reach sexually maturity at 1 year old while females can first reproduce at 1 and a half years old. Most males will not mate until 4 years old when they are old enough to establish a territory of their own.

Behavior

Predators of the impala include leopards, lions, jackals, caracal, humans, hunting dogs, crocodiles, cheetahs, hyenas and pythons. A threatened impala may leap up to 9m (29ft) in distance and up to 2m (6.5ft) high. When one member of the herd finds a threat they make an alarm call that makes the whole herd run.

Impala herds vary seasonally. Female herds may number between 15 and 100 individuals. They will defend a home range which they will defend during the wet season and generally tolerate others during the dry season.

Quick facts

The scientific name of the impala, Aepyceros melampus, comes from the Greek words for high horn black foot.

Impala is a word from the Zulu language.

Photo Credits:

Top By Yathin sk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Map By Jürgen at nl.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons

Bottom By Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE (Impalas (Aepyceros melampus) female and young) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons