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Monday, 3 September 2012

"I" is for Impala

CCF has carried out a number of camera trapping surveys, and also maintains a network of cameras positioned for ongoing monitoring of the wildlife on our land.  While we are mainly focussed on cheetahs, there are many other species out there, and the cameras will trigger no matter what passes them by.  In this series of weekly blog entries, I will use these pictures to illustrate some of the wealth of animal life in Namibia - one species per week.  I hope you will enjoy seeing a little more of our world here in the bush.

This time I have the chance to talk about a rare visitor to CCF.  Given that Namibia (aside from the far NW) is not part of their range, we were rather surprised to spot Common Impala on our camera traps.  There have been just enough sightings to convince us that they seem to have settled, but we think it's probably quite a small group.  We've no real idea where they originated, but given that the species has been introduced to numerous game farms in Namibia, it's probably safe to assume that they escaped from one of those.

The IUCN lists Impala as Least Concern, since their population is large (approx. 2 million) and stable.  More usually they are found much further east ranging from Kenya in the north to Botswana, and north-western South Africa in the south, and all the way across to the Indian Ocean.  A numerically smaller sub-species, the Black-Faced Impala is resident in Namibia's Etosha National Park.

A mixed browser and grazer, the impala can usually be found in areas with both woodland and open grasslands.  They seem to prefer grass in the wet season, and bushes in the dry season, although many exceptions occur.  Impala are about 150cm (59") long and stand 90cm (35") at the shoulder, with gracefully curving horns on males only. Unique to impalas are scent glands on the fetlocks thought to aid lost members of a herd by laying 'trail markers' as the group moves. 

Males can be extremely aggressive to each-other while competing for females, and deaths do occur.  Courtship displays also involve both long and high jumps, with members of a herd often becoming so involved in what they are doing that they become oblivious to everything else.  Barring accidents impala will live to around 15 years, although 50% of calves are lost to carnivores within a few weeks of birth.

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