Monday, February 24, 2014

The Life of The Black Faced Impala

Imagine a larger and darker version of the graceful impala with its shiny reddish coat and long slender legs, add a distinctive dark blaze to its muzzle, and you have the black-faced impala, Aepyceros melampus petersi, a subspecies found in the wild only in south-western Angola and north-western Namibia.

The evolution of this interesting subspecies is the result of its isolated occurrence, the ordinary impala having a wide distribution in the eastern woodlands of Africa, from northern Kenya southwards to northern KwaZulu Natal in South Africa.

The black-faced impala’s definitive dark blaze extends from its nostrils to the top of its head, and its tail is long and very bushy. An adult male has a mean mass of 63 kg, the female about 50 kg, considerably larger when compared to an ordinary impala male with its mean mass of 50 kg and female which weighs approximately 40 kg. The upper parts of the black-faced impala’s body lack the rich reddish-brown colour of the ordinary impala, being duller brown with a rich purplish black sheen.

According to Shortridge, black-faced impala used to occur as far south as Kaoko-Otavi. Today this interesting animal’s natural distribution is limited to the northern and southern banks of the Kunene River, in Namibia in northern Kaokoland, where they are seldom encountered further south than 30 km from the river.

Following a timous relocation programme by the Namibian Department of Nature Conservation in the sixties, about 1 500 black-faced impala currently inhabit the Etosha National Park, with small numbers occurring on private game reserves and farmlands. Ordinary impala occur naturally in western and eastern Caprivi, while small numbers were translocated from South Africa’s then Transvaal and Natal provinces to the Daan Viljoen Game Reserve, the Waterberg Plateau Park, private game reserves and several farms.

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