21 March 2011 by Julienne du Toit

The Underrated Beast

The most unjustly ignored animal in the South African bush, in my opinion, is the noble impala. It is present in such large numbers that we just look past it.

In Kruger National Park you can always see who has just arrived. It’s the bus or vehicle where people are taking pictures of the impala. By the time they’ve seen their 100th, they’ll definitely have lost interest. And what a pity it is.

Impalas are plentiful because they really are the ultimate survivors. Most ungulates eat either grass or leaves. Impala eat both - doubling their chances of surviving a drought. In fact, during horrendous droughts I’ve seen the impalas looking as glossy as if someone had been up all night polishing them.

In early winter, though, they don’t look nearly as good. Well, the dominant males don’t. They’re wearing themselves ragged defending their territories. Only males with territory get the girls. When the mating season is over, they’re exhausted.

But if you pay attention to the impala, you’ll find yourself drawn into a world of elven beauty. They delicately scratch their heads with their pointed hind hooves. They flicker their lily ears to shift flies. They gracefully lift their heads to examine threats. They twist like gymnasts to groom themselves. And when they’re being chased or just feeling playful, they’ll leap higher than you could ever imagine.

Category: Wildlife

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