Impala (Aepyceros melampus)
They might be the most common animal species to see in the Kruger National Park, but they have some amazing characteristics that most people often overlook.
When it is not mating season a lot of herds come together and forage, with no apparent territories present. These big herds make an individual impala’s chance of being targeted by a predator much less. This is called a dilution effect.
Impala will also, on occasion, associate with herds of wildebeest and zebra to “hide behind other animals”. It is natural instinct for prey species like this to be situated in the middle of the herd, putting other species at a more vulnerable spot. These are known as selfish herds.
Impala, like most antelope species, have loose bottom incisor teeth in their sockets that are used as a comb when grooming.
They also groom each other (allo-grooming) to get rid of ticks in areas where the individual can’t reach. With these loose incisors, ticks and parasites are trapped between the teeth.
Red-billed oxpeckers (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) and Yellow-billed oxpeckers (Buphagus africanus) also aid this grooming process and will often be found on impala
These antelopes have incredibly impressive athletic skills – they are able to clear a 3m high and 12m long-jump without any effort!
Sometimes, you may also see some members of a herd running around and portraying an almost “playful” gesture where they run at nearly full speed and suddenly change into a jumping and rocking movement of the body. The reason for this – nobody really knows!
This is a very vigilant species, and very skittish sometimes when looking out for danger. The smallest suspicious movement can trigger an alarm call from one of its members in the herd. Impala respond to alarm calls of other species around them – whether it is a bird, vervet monkey, or zebra. But, in contrast, not all species react to their alarm calls.
Other prey species have learned this – if there is only an impala alarm calling without them really seeing the threat or danger, they don’t really adhere to the warning.
Impala might be the most common antelope species you’ll find while on a Kruger safari, but do not overlook them, they are amazing antilops.