The picture above is of a male impala. These buck are often ignored by safari goers because of their abundance here in the lowveld. They seem very quiet and don’t do much except eat so they don’t attract much attention. That is until April/May each year at full moon. Then they turn into crazy mad creatures. The males go into rut.
Now I know most human males complain about the females in their lives having PMS and similar types of mood swings but these impala boys take the cake. They go really crazy. Firstly they run around all over the place zig-zagging through the bush, and secondly these normally quiet creatures make the most unbelievable noises. Many a camper or hiker has been scared witless by these boys when they snort and roar like lions. Yes – like lions. Not just a gentle roar – it sounds more like a lion fight.
The Bean and I are used to it now, but we are still awakened at night with a galloping mad male impala charging past our cottages, roaring and snorting.
I remember the first time I heard it. I was on foot in the Grietjie game reserve when all hell broke loose and I thought I was about to be devoured by a pack of lions. One feels quite silly when, after you have leapt up the closest tree, you see a gentle mild buck ambling past.
The reason these boys carry on like this is to compete as the leader of a group of female impala and a territory. The competing males put all their energy into the rut, often loosing condition (less time is spent eating) and many preoccupied individuals are taken opportunistically by predators. The males which succeed in holding a territory will not have it for long – the job of rounding up, mating and chasing opponents is tiring – and they must “make hay while the moon shines”.
Impala are influenced by the lunar cycle, with almost all mating taking place in the period between full moons. The average territorial tenure of one male over a breeding herd can be anything from three months to just eight days in some cases.
Some of these fellows get very confused and we have seen males all on their own, running up and down, snorting, and generally going a bit crazy and there was not another male or female impala in sight.
What makes this all really funny to me is the attitude of the females while this all occurs. They just ignore the males and carry on as if nothing was happening. Occasionally you will see one looking quizzically at a snorting male, shaking her head in disdain.