The nyala is a beautiful spiral-horned antelope native to southern Africa. The coat is maroon or rufous brown in females and juveniles but grows a dark brown or slate grey, often tinged with blue, in adult males. Females and young males have ten or more white stripes on their sides. Both males and females have a white chevron between their eyes and a long bushy tail white underside. Only the males have horns that are yellow-tipped and have one or two twists.
Nyala are found across southeast Africa from the Lower Shire Valley in Malawi through Mozambique and Zimbabwe to eastern South Africa and Swaziland. They inhabit dense lowland woodlands, thickets, and lush green river country. They choose places with good quality grasslands as well as the provision of fresh water.
Nyala are very cautious creatures. They live in groups of up to 10 individuals that may be mixed or may contain only females or only males. Old males usually live alone. Females often remain near their mothers when they have their offspring, so the relationships in female herds may be considered relatively closer than that of males. Herds usually feed and drink water together. Nyala are not territorial animals and the home ranges of males are approximately equal to that of females and overlap extensively. Nyala are active mainly in the early morning and late afternoon. They browse during the day if temperatures are 20-30 °C (68-86 °F) and during the night in the rainy season. During the hot hours of the day, these antelopes usually rest in thick bushes. They are very shy in nature, and like remaining hidden rather than coming out in the open. Most sightings of nyala in the wild are at water holes. But nowadays they are becoming less shy and often come out in the sight of tourists. Alert and wary in nature, nyala use a sharp, high, dog-like bark to warn others in a group about the danger. This feature is mainly used by females. They also react to the alarm calls of impala, baboon, and kudu.
Nyala are polygynous meaning that one male mates with more than one female. They breed throughout the year with the peak in spring and autumn. The males fight over dominance during mating the mating season and when the male enters a females' herd, he makes a display by raising his white dorsal crest, lowering his horns, and moving stiffly. The female gives birth to a single calf after the gestation period of 7 months. Birth takes place generally away from the sight of predators, in places such as a thicket. The calf remains hidden for up to 18 days, and the mother nurses it at regular intervals. The young usually remains with its mother until the birth of the next calf, during which males in rut drive it away from the mother. Females reach reproductive maturity at 11 to 12 months of age and males start to breed when they are 18 months old.
The major threats to the population of the nyala include habitat loss, agriculture, and cattle grazing. Poaching is another serious threat to these beautiful antelopes and the males are highly prized as game animals in Africa.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total nyala population size is 36,500 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.