Shawn Catterall is our General Manager at Tshukudu Lodge. Not only does she take incredible images but has some wonderful stories to tell. Read on and be transported to the bushveld.
At the end of summer, beginning of winter most antelope species go into rut. This is when the men are separated from the boys and the men get the chance to have and extend their family,, mostly only once in their lifetime. So, when the males fight for the right to mate it can become very serious sometimes even lethal.
Out with guests one afternoon we came across a beautiful herd of impala and decided to stay and watch a male try and take over ownership of the herd from the herd male, we sat for a while. The two males put their heads down and crashed their horns onto each with force using their back legs for momentum.
This carried on for many minutes, backwards and forwards, through and over the bushes, into the road and back into the grass. All you could hear for a while was the clashing of the horns. Then it started getting very serious and you could see the bigger male was getting quite annoyed with the younger fellow and increased his force against the younger male.
Suddenly the whole herd came to “spectate” the fight they ran almost up to the two fighting males and then darted away and back again, all the while making a strange noise in their throats, as if cheering on the fighters. The herd continued to dance and jump around the males, especially the youngsters that were born this year.
It took 15 minutes of serious activity before the younger of the two males got his foot caught in the horn of the bigger fellow. The larger male saw his chance and pushed with all his might and tossed the younger male to the ground. The young male fell on his back into a ditch with the larger on top of him, dust and stones flying. By now the rest of the herd had danced off making their strange noises while the winner chased off the loser.
The winner continued running after the looser - chasing him off. Then he came back to his herd making his normal strange roaring noise, as all the male contenders do during the rut, proclaiming his win to the ladies.
Ownership of the herd changes continually during the rut until a final winner will mate with all the females. He will stay with the herd until the next rutting season, protecting his females and offspring.
As a field guide I had seen males fighting and being vocal but never before have I seen the herd reacting to a fight with dancing, talking and supporting the opponents. There is always something new to learn out in the bush and our guests had an amazing sighting from common impala.