Topi

This antelope is unusual in several ways. Most notably, if a female detects danger when in labour, she can simply delay the birthing process and run off.

Topis are medium-sized antelopes that live in the savannahs of Africa. They prefer areas that are relatively damp - still too dry for a forest to grow but moist enough for bushes and small trees to grow in places. Topis are found south of the Sahara Desert, from Senegal to Sudan. Their distribution then extends through the plains of East Africa and across southern Africa.

They are very social by nature, occurring in groups averaging around 20, although herds of up to 100 individuals have been recorded when migrating. Males will fight to control groups of females. When running, topis have a bounding gait and are considered to be the fastest of all ungulates. The topi is also known as the tsessebe.

Males defend a territory of grass, which will also be home to a few females and their young. At the centre of the territory is a mound or similar vantage point. The male uses this feature to display to the other topis in the area in order to reinforce his ownership of the territory and to attract more females to his herd. The females also stand on the mound in order to alert other topis of approaching danger.

Both male and female topis have horns. Males are slightly larger than females and have darker coats. The coat is a pattern of dark blotches under a fine coat of red-brown hairs. The blotches range from black to dark purple.

The male has sole mating rights over the females. Gestation is about eight months, and young are born at the end of the dry season.

Distribution: Ranging from Senegal to Ethiopia and down to South Africa, the species is especially numerous in southern Sudan and Tanzania, in the Serengeti National Park.

Habitat: Moist grasslands.

Weight: 130 - 170 kg (287 - 375 lb); females are lighter.

Length: 213 cm (84 in), including tail.

Maturity: Females from 1.5 years; males from 3 years, but will not compete to breed for at least another year.

Gestation Period: About 248 days.

Breeding: A single youngster, typically weaned by 1 year old.

Food: Herbivorous, grazing exclusively on grass.

Lifespan: 12 - 15 years average.

Status: Lower risk.

Horns

Horns are ringed and lyreshaped, growing to about 53 cm (21 in) long.

Colouration

Topis are instantly recognizable by the distinctive dark markings on their bodies. Females tend to be lighter in colour.

Ears

The long, flexible ears provide good hearing, to warn of potential predators such as lions and leopards.

Mouthparts

The jaws are narrow, reflecting the fact that these antelopes feed only on grass.

A MUD BATH

Topis will roll in damp mud, smearing it all over their bodies, probably as a means of keeping cool.

Gallery of Topi