Friday, August 15, 2014

Common Impala

The term "impala" comes from the Zulu word for gazelle. There are two subspecies of impala. The subspecies we saw, the common impala, is found in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and small portions of Angola, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. It numbers about two million. The other subspecies, the black-faced impala, is found in just small portions of western Namibia and Angola and numbers only 2,000 to 3,000. It is considered a vulnerable species. 

Males have beautiful lyre-shaped horns. 
In Buffalo Springs NR.
Photo by Judy.
Photo by Esmee Tooke.
Photo by Mark Edwards.
In Nairobi NP.
Both males and females have a two-tone coat: glossy rufous/brown saddle over a tan torso and limbs, very similar to the gerenuk. 
Two tone coat. In Lake Nakuru NP.
They have black markings on the ear tips, a patch on the forehead, three vertical lines on the rump (two down the hams and one down the center of the tail), and hair tufts above the rear hooves. They have white on the underside of the tail, inner thighs, belly, throat, chin, muzzle, eye rings, and on the inside of the ears. 
Black patch on forehead and black tips of ears. White inner thighs. In Lake Nakuru NP.
Female herd in Masai Mara. Photo by John Mirau.
White muzzle and chin, white around the eyes, white inside ears and black patch on head and tops of ears. Photo by Mark Edwards. 
Herds of females and young (males up to about 4 years) will reach 15 to 100. Small calves are often in groups guarded by one or more mothers while the others feed or go off to drink. One male presides over the herd, but herds of bachelor males, up to about 30, will frequently challenge the presiding male. 
A female with six calves in Lake Nakuru NP.
A herd of female impalas. Photo by Esmee Tooke.
Female impalas. Good view of three black stripes on the rump, black above the rear hooves and black ears and forehead. Impala are among the most beautiful antelope. I particularly like the two-tone coat and the black stripes on the rear. Photo by Steven Shuel.  
Three males (one just behind the one on the left) in a bachelor herd in Buffalo Springs NR.
A male watches over one of his females in Buffalo Springs NR. 
A male with one horn, two males with full sets of horns and one male with spikes that are still growing. In Nairobi NP.
Impala have maintained their same basic form for 5 million years, while the hartebeest and wildebeest have gone through many different forms. This indicates that the impala is well adapted to its environment. 

We saw good numbers of impala in Buffalo Springs NR, Lake Nakuru NP, Masai Mara NR, Serengeti NP and Nairobi NP. Our best view was in Nairobi NP where we drove among a large group of males and females with several males locking horns over dominance. 
Two males ready to lock horns in Nairobi NP. 
Two males locking horns.
Two males locking horns. 


  1. Beautiful animals. I love the horns.

  2. This is probably my favorite member of the antelope family. I love the horns--so graceful but still so imposing.