A few days ago we came around the corner and noticed a female impala standing alone in a thicket. I hit the brakes immediately. At this time of year that could only mean one thing; this impala was giving birth. We must have missed the actual birth by minutes but at her feet lay a tiny newborn lamb.

The female hurriedly began to lick the amniotic fluid off the youngster and ingest the placenta and within minutes the lamb was attempting to stand. On skinny, wobbly legs it fumbled around only to be knocked down again as its mother greeted it with a few overly-zealous licks. Within 12 minutes it was running alongside her.

A young impala lamb, still wet from the afterbirth makes a hasty retreat following the others. At this stage they are very vulnerable to predation. Image by guest Andrew Turner

The very first lamb was born closer to the start of November but now we are into the thick of the birthing period. These animals have a synchronized birthing time which adds to the success of the species. Many of these young fawns will be killed by predators but by simply flooding the market, so to speak, it allows for others to reach an age where they are self-sufficient and fast enough to potentially outrun predators.

What would happen with this young newborn we watched taking its first steps is that it would stay isolated with its mother for a day or so. Then it will follow her back to the herd where crèches or nursery groups form. These 1-2 days allows the newborn to recognize the scent of its mother and allow it to identify her for suckling for when they return to the herd. Fawns will suckle from their mother for up to 4 months, after which they are then able to fend for themselves.

Females will seek out dense vegetation to give birth. They are very nervous and aware during this time and the unfamiliar sight of a game viewer makes the lamb move away. It makes photographing the new additions a challenge. Image by guest Andrew Turner

Once the impala lambs have been groomed and able to recognize the scent of their mother, they will group into small nursery herds. Image by guest Andrew Turner

There is a misconception that impala ewes can delay their birthing period, yet there is not evidence to support this theory.  You can read more on this often discussed topic in Shaun D’Araujo’s post from this time last year entitled: Can Impala Really Delay Their Births?  The belief is that during poor conditions, certain species can lengthen their pregnancies – effectively delaying birth until conditions improve, failing which they will abort. If pregnancy were delayed, natural birth would be impossible owing to the offspring being too large.

Perceived holding of young is probably just a consequence of a slight offset, by a couple weeks, of the previous mating season when females conceived a few weeks later than normal. This is a common scenario, as a catalyst for mating is related to a change in daylight hours and physical condition, which is inextricably linked to food availability. Food availability, in turn, varies seasonally with rainfall, therefore good summer rainfall in the previous year can result in a slightly earlier mating period, which would ultimately result in an earlier birthing period.

With wobbly legs, a young impala lamb joins the herd. Image by guest Andrew Turner

In the bush, time is a strange thing and the seasons seem to flash by. It feels as if it was just the other day that we heard the bush lit up with the strange guttural roars from impala rams. These sounds invariably get mistaken for predators. It is in fact the sound made by dominant impala males during the rut or mating season. The roar is unique among our antelope, and probably evolved as a vocal means of advertising or intimidating potential rivals so as to reduce physical encounters.

The word rut actually means to roar.

Males chase off rivals as they attempt to subdue females. The three weak peak rut is influenced by the lunar cycle, shorter days stimulate gonadal growth and hormone production. This peak rut is normally around May. So much energy is spent on this behaviour that males lose condition and are displaced by younger males from bachelor herds. This may occur multiple times during the rut, ensuring a good influx of genes into the breeding pool.

A dominant impala ram raises its head and lets out a deep guttural roar as if to signify his dominance over a harem of females. These roars are heard both day and night, often travelling kilometers.

Much energy is spent roaring and chasing females. Dominant males may only last 6-8 days attempting to mate before being ousted by younger, fitter challengers.

What results is this sudden boom of arrivals to the impala population seven months later. In the last week we have seen multiple different leopards taking advantage of the new and vulnerable youngsters, including the Tamboti, Nkoveni and Tatowa females as well as the Inyathini male. And these are just the kills that we know about. Hyenas can also be found investigating the herds, looking for vulnerable youngsters to snatch up.

5
Nkoveni 2:2 Female
2012 - present

A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.

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Nkoveni 2:2 Female

Lineage
Sunsetbend
Identification
markings
Timeline
45 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
2 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist
5
Tatowa 3:3 Female
2012 - present

The Tatowa female was one of a litter of three females born in early 2012 to the Ximpalapala female of the north.

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Tatowa 3:3 Female

Lineage
Short Tail Female
Identification
markings
Timeline
10 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
2 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

10
Tamboti 4:3 Female
2007 - present

The Tamboti female inhabits the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.

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Tamboti 4:3 Female

Lineage
Sunsetbend
Identification
markings
Timeline
33 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
1 known
Litters
3 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist
 
9
Inyathini 3:3 Male
2008 - present

Another leopard who originated in the Kruger National Park, he has established a large territory in the south eastern areas of Londolozi.

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Inyathini 3:3 Male

Lineage
Unknown
Identification
markings
Timeline
20 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
0 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

The sight of these tiny babies rapidly expanding the size of the impala herds along with the constantly greening bush is adding a new and vibrant energy to Londolozi and brings smiles to our faces wherever it is that we adventure on game drive these days.

Involved Leopards

Inyathini 3:3 Male

Inyathini 3:3 Male

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Tamboti 4:3 Female

Tamboti 4:3 Female

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Tatowa 3:3 Female

Tatowa 3:3 Female

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Nkoveni 2:2 Female

Nkoveni 2:2 Female

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About the Author

Alex Jordan

Field Guide

Born in Cape Town, Alex grew up on a family wine estate in Stellenbosch. Spending much of his young life outdoors, Alex went on many a holiday into Southern Africa’s national parks and wild areas. After finishing high school, he completed a number ...

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6 Comments

on Londolozi’s Newest Additions

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Callum Evans

Very interesting article, I always love seeing impala lambs in the summer (admittedely I’ve only seen it twice before but still)! Very interesting to learn the truth behind the impala’s ‘delaying’ their births. Also didn’t know about the word ‘rut’ meaning ‘to roar’. Funny how we never use that word to describe lions roaring.

Marinda Drake

You know it is summer when the first Impala lambs are born and the Woodlands teturn. Is it a bit earlier this year? Always seem as if the lambs only arrive at the end of November.

Amy Attenborough

Hi Marinda. No this is a fairly normal time of year. The wildebeest start birthing near the end of the month though 🙂 Such a special time. All my best, Amy

Darlene Knott

So very interesting, Alex. I remember watching a newborn wildebeest attempt to stand in Tanzania. New birth, new generation—life goes on the animal world, just like humankind! The babies are adorable! Thanks for sharing.

Denise Vouri

Fascinating blog Alex. I’ve always traveled to Africa during your summer months and have been fortunate to observe the youngest of several animal groups. My most amazing trip yielded the witnessing of the impending birth of a wildebeest while on the “hoof” and subsequently finding her and the calf in the bush where she was cleaning the afterbirth away. We sat and watched this little one attempt over and over again to stand, until finally he made it up. I was able to capture it all on video and still find it hard to believe that birth comes and within less than an hour the little one is off with mom and the herd. Cheers for all the impala calves to come. Also liked the information about the word rut. I didn’t associate that with roaring.

Eulalia Angédu

Very captivating article.The pictures are fantastic.The new additions symbolize continuous generations.We happy they came.

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