Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fast Food

The impala is the most common antelope in South Africa and because they are so numerous, visitors especially to the Kruger National Park often simply take them for granted. Through the years and because I'm lucky that as a tourist guide, I regularly visit game reserves, I've developed a special affinity for the impala antelopes (in actual fact, an impala is a gazelle!!).

This is a photo (left) of an impala ram (taken by our son-in-law, Quinton) displaying its strongly ridged, lyre-shaped, horns with smooth tips. Only the male impalas have horns.

Trivia: young impala males are evicted from the territorial domains of dominant males and form "bachelor" herds.

During a previous posting, I mentioned a "photo-story" I have completed: IMPI the IMPALA. I also promised to "reveal" my young protagonist and this (right) is my "signature" photo of Impi. [I've "published" the first Chapter on another blog -]

At all times during the year, young impala males "lock horns" - in preparation for the day when they "discover" the urge (hormonally speaking) to carve out a territory, which is then dominated by the most assertive male.

Trivia: for most of the year, the gregarious impalas live peacefully in herds; but autumn is the rutting season - and the impala-lifestyle changes dramatically.

"Serious business" - a fierce duel for dominance between 2 rival males. Impala males fight for the "privilege" of being in charge of a female herd, and sometimes, the aggressive battles even prove fatal.

Trivia: victorious impala rams proclaim their ownership of a territory with loud barks sounding like the roar of a lion! It's known to have happened that visitors to game reserves during the rutting season, on hearing this, imagined being in the company of lions - and then were deeply disappointed when all they saw were impalas.

Impalas are the ONLY hoofed animals, which partake in mutual grooming (photo right). Their specially adapted canines and incisors assist impalas to remove ticks (= parasites) from one animal to another OR to groom itself.

Trivia: since ticks reduce blood reserves, this exposes animals to disease, which could lead to malnutrition - therefore tick removal is vitally important - and that's why birds like ox-peckers are tolerated by most wild animals, because they assist with the removal of ticks.

One of my photos of impalas (left) which I was proud to see turned out to be as "symmetrically aligned" as I had hoped it would.

Trivia: the general habitat of impalas is short grass and dense bush. A permanent supply of water is vital. Unusual amongst antelopes, impalas are grazers AND browsers.

I deliberately took this "skew" photo (right) for experimental reasons. Instead it turned out what I think of as an advertisement for MacDonalds. Why? Check the impala "behinds" - do you see the letter M? It's a standard joke amongst guides and rangers: impalas (naturally for predators) represent fast food = MacDonalds = the title of my blog-entry today.

I thought of this as an endearing moment between 2 different animal species (left). It reminded me of something we tourist guides know well: meet and greet (foreigners arriving at the airport). Whilst recently on tour in the Etosha Park (Namibia) I watched the black-faced impala approach a springbok (highly unusual) - and duly "recorded" the moment.

During this sighting (right), my first impression was that I was looking at an impala. Only on closer inspection did I realise my mistake - and took my first photo of a puku. The encounter happened in the Chobe National Park (Botswana), and I could be "excused" for mistaking this antelope for an impala, because pukus don't occur (naturally) in our country. The puku is also similarly "shaded" like the impala and of similar height - but now I know that that's where the similarities end.

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