Many passionate Africa enthusiasts do their utmost to sort fact from fiction when it comes to understanding nature. Most people know perfectly well that male lions are quite capable of hunting (and can do so regularly) and that porcupines do not shoot their quills like arrows and will giggle at the idea of elephants falling over drunk on Marula fruits. In this blog, I want to mention two myths that you may find rather interesting and possibly, that you never knew about.
MYTH 1: Impalas can delay the birth of their offspring for several weeks
Truth – Impala ewes have no control over their gestation period. The birth process is triggered by the interconnection between the foetus, the mother and her hormones. The timing of the first rains may have an impact on gestation length slightly as it may affect the mother’s nutrient intake which will directly influence the development of the foetus. But the difference is measured in days (if that) not weeks.
In reality, the timing of birth in impalas, like most other mammals, is controlled by biological and environmental factors. These factors include the presence of food, water, and other resources, as well as the impala’s age, health, and reproductive status. Oestrus cycles, conception, implantation, pregnancy and birth are all complicated processes depending on various factors, and deliberately postponing birth is beyond realms of physiological possibility.
MYTH 2: Giraffes form no lasting bonds over their lifespan
Giraffes’ social structures are way more complex than what we understand. Not quite on the same level as elephants, however, we don’t give them enough credit for their intelligence and complex social dynamics. Giraffe social structure has long been described as a loose social congregation or fission-fusion society, where females of the species will move freely between many different herds and most times never form an intentional herd with their offspring.
However recent studies have revealed a far greater complexity to giraffes’ social/group structures. Many of the matrilineal groups that were researched consisted of generations of grandmothers, mothers and their daughters. These associations and herd groups remained stable for years.
Our understanding of animal behaviour, genetics, and evolution is constantly advancing and staying on top of every discovery is almost impossible. Having some level of wildlife knowledge always helps us understand the intricacies of the different species we get to view. Having said that, sometimes it’s best to just look at things they we see them…