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The antelope are a common part of the African scene because of the grasses and shrubbery of the African plains. The vegetation drives (allows) all sorts of things to survive by providing nourishment and moisture. Unlike the Giant Panda and Koala who eat almost valueless food stuffs, the African grasslands provide food rich in carbohydrates, minerals, and protein – it isn’t always easy to get at. But, a great percentage of the savannah biomass is in ruminants (ungulates). These animals are even-toed and utilize a four-chambered stomach. They are cud-chewers for the most part. Of course the vegetation is quite seasonal, in many places, and requires either periods of hunger or a migration for animals to make it through the year.
Despite this sort of generalized introduction, the existing antelope vary greatly in size, habitat, shape, and behavior. Some are singular in life style while others group together and seem to need company. There are about 78 members of the Bovid family in Africa. These are the Duikers, Dik-dik, Steenbok, Klipspringer, Gazelles, Reedbuck, Rhebok, Waterbuck, Lechwe, Puku, Hartebeest, Topi, Wildebeest, Impala, Bushbuck, Kudu, Eland, Cape Buffalo, and Giraffe.
This grouping consists (again) of cud-chewing, four-chamber stomach, even-toed animals that look like antelope or cows or giraffes. The sweetest looking and probably the second-most abundant, behind the Wildebeest, is the Impala. This is a sleek animal weighing about 150 pounds for males and 100 pounds for a female. The males have horns that are sweepingly wide, ridged, and up to a yard long (36-37 inches or 90 cm). They are two-toned brown with white bellies, rump, and facial marks. The Impala is an animal of the brushy edges. It can be seen in light woodlands and grassy plains.
Impala are largely browsers taking pods, buds, fresh twigs, and new foliage from grassy woodlands (mostly during the drier seasons) but will graze heavily on fresh grasses during the wet season. They are often seen in rather large groups with 30 to 120 females in a rather stable group and males in bachelor herds for the most part. Males will compete for dominance and then try to hold a group of 5-20 females on a territory for breeding. The male-male competition continues throughout the breeding season. The dominant males do get to breed the most, but they also forgo feeding to shepherd females and chase intruding males. Few males have the stamina to hold both females and territory throughout the breeding season.
Impala numbers are quite patchy. They are very common in good habitat and uncommon in less suitable locations. There are scattered populations from Kenya on south into South Africa. There is a small population of the “Black-faced Impala” in southern Angola and northern Namibia. This form is usually lumped under the same specific name as the other populations.