08 December 2010 by Julienne du Toit

The Tilting Season

It’s full moon in April, and outside the skinny canvas walls of your tented chalet comes what surely must be the sound of a roaring lion. Or a roaring leopard. Well, some loud and outraged wild animal at any rate.

You snap upright and sit their blinking among moonshadows, convinced your last moment may have arrived.

In fact, you are perfectly safe. All you’re hearing is the weirdly scary sound of rutting impala. While you lie there, your eyes wide open, spare those poor male antelope a little sympathy.

For a few weeks, only the males who can lure and hold a harem of 6 to 20 females can mate. Their every waking moment is dedicated to holding potential usurpers at bay. Instead of grazing and grooming, they’re running after fickle females.

After a few weeks, the poor males are worn down to a nub, visibly out of condition and exhausted.

The intensity of the rutting season all happens for a good reason. Six to seven months later, just as the first tender grasses begin to green the veld after the spring rains, the impala females give synchronous birth.

With so many tiny babies running about, it’s boomtime for predators, but the sheer number of newborns means that enough live to ensure the survival of the species.

It’s my very favourite time to be in the bush, looking out for Bambi impala, wobbly little zebras, fuzzy baby wildebeest and tiny doll-like baboon babies.

Category: Wildlife

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