Impala is an elegant and magnificent species of antelope. The animal has slender body with the identifying "M"-like marking on the rear. This medium-sized antelope possesses thin, pointed horns with tips, lying far apart from each other. Males of this species are identified by the characteristic "S"-like horns. The elegant limbs of these animals have scent glands behind the ankles. The overall coloration of their fur is red-brown with paler sides. In addition, they have black and white colored areas on their body. Thus, the tail, belly, chin, lips, inside ears as well as the lines above the eyes are colored with white. Meanwhile, black bands cover their thighs, tail, forehead and ear tips.
Impalas are distributed throughout northeastern part of South Africa, Angola, southern Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. Close proximity to a water source is an important life condition for these animals. Generally, they prefer woodland with little undergrowth as well as low to medium height grassland.
These antelopes are both diurnal and nocturnal. They are most active just after sunrise and before sunset, socializing and moving with their herd, whereas, during the nighttime hours, impalas usually lie down and ruminate. Female impalas and their offspring gather into herds, containing from 15 to 100 individuals. The home range of each herd covers a territory, varying from 80 to 180 hectares. During the wet season, females become highly territorial, defending home ranges of their herds. On the other hand, young males form bachelor, non-territorial herds of up to 30 individuals. During the dry season, male and female herds can often be seen mixed together. Home ranges of mature breeding males vary from season to season. Thus, at the breeding season they usually have smaller home ranges, which they fiercely defend. Males use wide variety of methods to defend their home range, including fighting, tail-raising, chasing, roaring, erect posture as well as forehead marking and forehead rubbing.
Impalas have polygynous mating system, where each male mates with a number of females. The period of peak breeding activity is March-May. During this period, pregnant females live in isolation to give birth. Gestation period lasts from 194 to 200 days, yielding a single calf, which weighs about 5kgs (11 lbs). After a few days, the calf and the female rejoin the herd. Then, after a while, the calf joins a crèche of other young impalas. They are weaned at 4-5 months old. Male impalas reach sexual maturity at 1 year of age, while females - between 1 and 2 years old. Becoming sexually mature, they, however, do not rush to establish territories. They typically start mating only at 4 years old.
The animals presently suffer from fragmentation of their range due to development of human settlements. In addition, roads such as the Serengeti Highway in Tanzania have an extremely negative affect, making it difficult for scattered migrating populations to move between parks, where the antelopes feed, mate and give birth. In addition, populations in South Africa are exposed to hunting for their meat by local people.
Impalas are fairly common throughout the area of their habitat. Their population is presently stable and estimated to 2,000,000 mature individuals. The species is classified on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC).
These herbivores are the top consumers of their habitat. Living in African savanna, they play a significant role in the local food chain due to feeding upon shrubs and grasses, which give them energy as well as increase their fat and muscles. In addition, impalas, along with other animal species of the area, are key prey items for local predators such as lions, leopards and hyenas.