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James Tyrrell


James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills that complemented his Honours degree in Zoology meant that he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the ...

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on The Floppy-Eared Impala Lambs

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I wonder if this could have been an intra-uterine viral infection or even, possibly, related to the floppy trunk problem that affected elephants in Kariba a while ago? Interesting! Thanks for all your wonderful blogs. Colin.

watching Wildearth safariLive, our presenters noticed the same thing. Floppy ears. Then, later, couldn’t find one. Myself, think they were just “bent over” during birth and after a few days were back to normal. Just a guess!

Hi Mary, that may well be something to do with it, but why the abnormally big number? I don’t remember seeing this type of thing after the proper drought of 2016, so who knows?

What I can think of is this floppy lot was all relatively big, so a bit crowded in the womb?

James, I have no idea what caused the floppy eared impala lambs!

Very curious. Would like to hear what the vet says.

Same thing was happening on Djuma.

Djuma also has floppy-eared impala lambs, so they are probably occurring all over the Lowveld and the Sabi Sands Reserve. Held too long in the womb because the rains came late?

Hi Bruce,
I know Mala Mala also had some. I don’t know about the womb thing. If anything I imagine the ears would form better if held longer in the womb?
Until we hear from the vet I think we’ll have a number of ideas…

Senior Digital Ranger

My puppy went through a stage of having floppy ears, then one ear up and one ear down (which would have been distressing and comic at the same time if it continued), and finally perky ears. I imagine it’s part of growing up, and that the ears firm up as they grow.

As you say, impala have to grow up fast! So I’m guessing the floppy-eared are relative newborns and quickly get their ears up and listening.

Any feedback from the vet?

Not yet Alex, we’ll try follow up.

They have some on Djuma also

Fascinating that you all on Londolozi got lambs with this same condition. Lambs in the northern Sabi Sands also had lambs with floppy ears and there was a photo of a lamb from the Timbavati with floppy ears. So it seems to be somewhat of a phenomenon. I read about a condition in human babies called ear lidding, which is the abnormal folding of the top cartilage of the ear, but haven’t found anything about it in animals.

Hello James, has anyone mentioned to you that this also happened in Djuma and Chitwa? Also in Djuma there is a lamb with cauliflower ears, such a strange thing going on all over the place. Could it have been lack of vitamins due to the drought?

Senior Digital Ranger

My thought is that it may be a lack of some type of nutrient in utero due to the poor diet during the drought conditions. Once they were born and the rains arrived and good grazing returned maybe the body absorbed what it needed and the ear cartilage became as it normally is..

Interesting speculations….would love to hear what the Vet says.

Senior Digital Ranger

I’m sure you already know this James, but Safari Live on Wild Earth was talking about this same thing a couple weeks ago during the big rains. They were equally baffled. I’m assuming you’re saying you’re seeing the same condition at Londolozi?

HI Phil,
Yip same thing. Also reported by Mala Mala. It may well be regional, and I’m very intrigued so will keep following up until we get to the bottom of it.

This report was extremely interesting as I just returned from Northern Botswana – Chobe River and National Park viewing several hundred impalas. There were so many crèches, with lambs from days old to a couple of weeks. My camera tired of photographing so many impala babies as they were everywhere, but after reading this blog I took another look through my photos photos and didn’t spot one floppy- eared lamb, nor remembered seeing one. Could it be regional due to to conditions in the greater Kruger area? But if the ears return to their normal state, then maybe the in utero theory could bear weight. If gestation runs too long the ears might bend….. we’ll wait for your research.

I doubt 1 in 15 impala lambs have been picked off by predators so soon. I don’t think this is genetic either as this mutation would be specific to a breeding herd and certainly not so prevalent. My guess would be it self corrected after the lambs started eating and may have been to a deficiency in the females diet. The past few years haven’t really recovered from the prolonged dry cycle and perhaps certain essential minerals have been lacking. These may be important to development and possibly the lambs were born without being fully developed. Due to the wet season and plentiful, high quality food available, the lambs self corrected on the mother’s milk and additional feeding. It’s fascinating!!! Who knows what the answer is and hopefully the mystery is solved.

Senior Digital Ranger

James, know you are aware there is lots of info online about the Elephant Floppy Trunk syndrome experienced some time ago in Zimbabwe. How sad it is and interested to hear what the Vets have to say about Impala. We’re there larger than expected numbers of new births this year? We didn’t see any floppy ears on our recent amazing trip, just beautiful specimens, but then again, we were slightly preoccupied with the wonderful Leopard and Lion population!

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