Pack up your gear, check the wardrobes. Got everything? Good, because today’s our last day in the
The last animal we saw on leaving the Park was an impala, in fact, the animals most predominant in the Park are impala. There are estimated to be about 86 000 - way more than any other animal. When the guide on our sunset drive asked us what we expected to see, D very smartly announced, “Impala”. Methinks perhaps what the guide had meant to say was, “What would you hope to see”!
Impala, beautiful, graceful antelope, are known as the Park’s fast food – food on the hoof, you might say. They are a one-of-a-kind antelope and have no close relatives. They are a highly successful breed and dominant in their chosen habitat. But because there are so many of them, they are easy pickings for any of the big predators – though they’re not to everyone’s taste – lions, for example, are not that keen on them. You might think the impala would be putting themselves at risk - being so numerous, but a little like zebras, they work on the bafflement factor.
Herds consist of a harem of females and single dominant ram. During breeding season the ram has a busy few days and all his girls are impregnated at approximately the same time. As soon as the first calf is born, there follows an intense period of calving that may last about two weeks. A herd can easily grow from 10 animals to 50 animals during this time. Although it is a vulnerable time for the herd, the sheer number of dinner options baffles the predators. “Hmm, this one, or that one, no, hang on, how about that one there, no, wait, there’s one over there …” and by the time the predator has made up its mind, the herd have scarpered. Okay, so it’s not quite that simplistic, but you get the idea.
But being an impala provides for a pretty straightforward sort of life. Eat (and they both graze and browse) and then get eaten. You can kind of imagine the following conversation:
Mummy Impala – “Now there’s just one thing you need to know about life, dear.”
Baby Impala – “What’s that, Mummy?”
Mummy Impala – “One day you will be eaten.”
Me and a few of my girls - and my oxpecker
(the oxpecker picks ticks off most animals in the park - a nicely symbiotic relationship)
As I said when I started this series, one of the things that struck me most about the Park’s animal kingdom was that it was a case of eat or get eaten, shag or get beaten. Simple philosophy though not high on compassion!
Hope you’ve enjoyed the journey with me!