With the discovery of the black Impala gene by University of Pretoria, is is finally possible to use split rams(Bb) in breeding programs and the outcomes can be determined. When split rams(Bb) are mated to normal ewes(BB), approximately half of the offspring will theoretcally inherit one black gene(b) from the ram and will therefore be split(Bb) for the black colour. Alternatively, the other half will inherit both normal genes from the parents and these offspring will be normal Impala(BB).
The graceful impala is a noisy antelope renowned for its agile leaps. It has reddish-brown upperparts becoming paler on the sides. The underparts, belly, throat and chin are white, as is the tail, which has a thin, black line down its centre. A black line also extends down each buttock. At the back of the hind leg, just above the hoof, is a characteristic tuft of black hair, which covers the fetlock gland. A high kick sends out a puff of scent from the gland, which is thought to be used to lay trails and help regroup herds. Males have lyre-shaped horns, up to 0.7 meters long and deeply ringed for most of their length. Two subspecies of the impala are recognised, based on morphological and genetic differences; Aepyceros melampus petersi, the black-faced impala, is significantly larger and darker than the common impala, Aepyceros melampus melampus, and has a characteristic dark facial blaze. At certain times of the year, guttural roars followed by a series of snorts can be heard as the males advertise their territories.
Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Chordata
Class – Mammalia
Order – Cetartiodactyla
Family – Bovidae
Genus – Aepyceros
Male weight: 60 kg
Female weight: 40 kg
Impala have a complex social structure and an interesting mating system. Like other antlered ungulates, impala mate during a certain period of time called the rut. During this period, the adult males, which normally live in bachelor herds, become territorial. Physical changes also occur in the males during this time; their necks thicken, their coats become darker from the grease of sebaceous secretions and they acquire a musky scent. The males fight for territories to attract females with which to mate, and their roars and snorts can be heard day and night. After the rut, the male’s territoriality and fighting urge wanes, and they regroup into bachelor herds or join breeding herds. A brief resurgence of this activity in some of the males occurs again in a secondary rut later in the year.
Female impala and their young live in breeding herds. The majority of young are conceived in the first rut and are born after a gestation period of 194 to 200 days. Females give birth to a single young in a secluded spot, remaining nearby and returning frequently to suckle their young. After a few days the young will begin to follow the mother, a time when they are particularly vulnerable to predators; about half the young are lost to predation within the first few weeks. Young males are evicted from breeding herds by territorial males and remain in bachelor herds until they are old enough to establish a territory. Impala can live for around 15 years.
Impala have a varied diet compared to closely related species. During the wet season, they mostly graze on grass, and as this dries they browse more on shrubs and bushes. Impala also consume fruits and Acacia pods when available. This varied diet means that impala can obtain relatively high quality food throughout the year in a small home range, without undertaking massive migrations as many African mammals do.
Impala generally inhabit savanna woodland, especially close to water, and can also be found in grassland with scattered bush cover during the rainy season.
The translocation of the black-faced impala to Etosha National Park has successfully created a population that is less threatened by poaching and competition, than those outside the park. However, care should be taken to ensure that the Etosha population does not come into contact with common impala, which could threaten their persistence due to interbreeding. This highlights the need for conservation of black-faced impala populations in areas removed from farms containing common impala. Solving the problem of interbreeding in private farm populations requires cooperation between governments and private land owners. Political action may be required, as permitting the import of black-faced impala trophies to the United States would create an economic incentive for farmers to maintain pure black-faced impala populations. Raising awareness in farmers of the uniqueness and rarity of the black-faced impala would also aid conservation efforts.