Thursday, 3 September 2015

Rarely seen creatures of Africa - The Nyala antelope

Male nyala
Male Nyala. 
These cautious and characteristic antelopes can live up to 19 years in the wild if not caught by predators or succumbing to illness. Their natural predators being lions, leopards and wild dogs while baboons and birds of prey hunt their young.

Both have a vertical white stripe running along their back, several white stripes along their sides and a white mark between their eyes. Males are much larger than females and have a distinctive pair of spirally horns with no pigment on the tips. They have a longish mane of hair running down the back of their necks, down their throats and chest area. The males are grey in colour and have bright yellowish legs while females and juveniles are reddish brown.


These antelopes are native to southern Africa, found not only in South Africa but in other countries such as Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.

Nyala’s live in the dense bush or on the borders of forests close to water. They are not territorial animals often sharing the same water source or grazing in the same area.


Nyala’s are attentive and wary antelopes, who make a sharp, high, bark-like sound to alert others in the group to danger approaching. They will also react to the alert calls of other animals such as impalas, baboons and kudus. These antelopes have a white under tail marking which they display as a warning sign to others.  

Females form groups often with related members whereas adult males prefer to live alone. Herds usually browse and drink water together in their groups for safety. Their groups may range in size from two to ten antelopes, sometimes breaking up and forming again.


These antelopes have a herbivore diet munching on a variety of foliage, fruits, flowers and twigs and grazing on fresh grass during the rainy season. The males use their impressive spiralled horns for digging, while both sexes use their hooves to dig up their food. They prefer to eat in the cooler parts of the day; early mornings or late afternoons. Nyalas’ are never far from a water source as they need a daily drinking session.

Female nyala and offspring
Female Nyala with offspring. 

Females reach sexual maturity at a year old and males at 18 months of age. They breed throughout the year but mating takes place mostly in spring and autumn. Males compete for dominance using their horns in fights. They may also thrash bushes with their horns before or after fighting to demonstrate strength.

The mother gives birth to a single calf after a gestation period of 7 months and keeps them in hiding for 18 days. The calf will stay by their mother’s side only leaving when the next calf is born, but often never straying far.  

Did you know?

They are shy animals

Have large ears with great hearing but poor eyesight

No comments :