Impala are one of the most common antelope found over much of Southern Africa. This is a good thing, as they are vital components of the ecosystems that they inhabit.
One of the important roles they fill is that of prey animal. Leopards and wild dogs prey heavily on impala. Healthy impala are very fast runners and, as such, are difficult creatures for predators to catch. Leopards catch them by making use of cover, and stalking unseen to within a few metres of the unsuspecting antelope. Wild dogs, on the other hand, run the impala down with a combination of speed and endurance.
Not all impala are equally at risk though. During the course of a season, the impala’s life cycle will dictate how vulnerable it is.
In April, May and June, male impala spend time fighting with one another over access to female herds. They have little time left for eating, grooming, and watching out for danger. Males are definitely less alert during this time, and pay the price. Fighting males also injure one another, and further compromise their fitness by doing this.
July and August sees some of these males still in poor condition, and still being targeted by wild dogs and leopards.
By September and October, female impala that bred successfully months earlier are getting heavier by the day with the weight of their young. This slows them down a lot, and wild dogs especially, seem to have a talent for seeking them out and running them down.
This situation continues until the females drop their young, which normally happens in November *or* December. Once the females have given birth, most predators, including leopards and wild dogs, concentrate heavily on young impala. The newly born antelope are naïve, and for their first few weeks of their lives they are easy prey, especially for wild dogs.
From January until March is perhaps the best time for the impalas. The rainy season provides them with lush, green growth to feed upon, and they put on weight and improve their condition. That is, until the next breeding season comes around, and the cycle begins anew.