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Taxonomy

Aepyceros melampus [Lichtenstein, 1812]

  • Citation: Reisen Sudl. Africa, 2, pl. 4 opp. p. 544
  • Type locality: South Africa, Cape Province, Kuruman, Khosis

General Characteristics

  • Body Length: 120-160 cm / 4-5.3 ft.
  • Shoulder Height: 75-95 cm / 2.5-3.1 ft.
  • Tail Length: 30-45 cm / 12-18 in.
  • Weight: 40-80 kg / 88-176 lb.

The short, glossy coat has a reddish saddle over a light tan torso. The undersides are white, as are the rings around the eyes. The muzzle and chin are lighter in colour. There are black markings on the ear tips and three black stripes on the rump: two on the flanks and one down the tail. There are tufts of dark hair above the rear hoofs which give the impala its specific name. The lyre-shaped horns, found only in males, are ”S”-shaped and slender. With strong ridges, they grow 45-92 cm / 18-37 inches long.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

  • Gestation Period: 6.5-7 months
  • Young per Birth: 1
  • Weaning: After 4-6 months
  • Sexual Maturity: Females at 1 year, males at 1.5 years
  • Life span: Up to 15 years

Two birthing peaks occur - one in spring and one in autumn. After birth, kids lie concealed away from their mother, subsequently joining a ’kindergarten’ group with other animals of the same age.

Ecology and Behavior

The impala is active throughout the 24-hour day, alternating resting and grazing, and drinking at least once a day. Herds have a home range of about 2-6 square kilometers. About 1/3 of adult males hold territories, which vary in size from 0.2-0.9 square kilometers. These territories are marked with urine and feces, and are defended against the intrusion of rival males. The owner of the territory attempts to control any female herds which wander into it. Prodigious leaps are the most well known feature of the impala’s movement. Executed seemingly without effort, these jumps may span over 9 meters / 30 feet and may be 2.5 meters / 8 feet high - often over bushes and even other impala. Unlike many other plains grazers, the impala flees into dense vegetation rather than out into the open grassland. During the breeding season, males make a hoarse grunting sound.

  • Family group: Males in herds of about 30, females and young in herds of up to 200
  • Diet: Grasses, leaves, blossoms, fruit
  • Main Predators: Lion, leopard, Cape hunting dog, spotted hyena, crocodile, python

Distribution

Wooded savannahs in eastern Africa, and an isolated pocket in Namibia.

Conservation Status

The impala is classified as a low risk, conservation dependent species by the IUCN (1996). The black-faced impala, A. m. petersi, is classified as a vulnerable subspecies.


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