The graceful nyala is one of our favourite antelope, and a close relative of the kudu. They occur naturally in the south-east corner of Africa, ranging from Malawi to South Africa’s eastern provinces.
To the uninitiated, the adult bulls in their dark, shaggy, coats and the ewes dressed in bright chestnut seem to be from two different species altogether. Bulls are almost double the size of the ewes, and can weigh up to 130kg.
Nyalas inhabit thickets and woodland near water, and will often forage in adjacent clearings. They’re mixed feeders, subsisting on a diet of leaves, succulent shoots and short grass.
Being social animals, nyalas occur in small groups consisting mostly of adult females and their offspring, with adult males tending to form bachelor groups. Lambs are born at any time of the year, though mostly in the wetter summer months.
The stiff-legged dominance display – you could even call it a dance! – of the adult bulls is one of nature’s most intriguing spectacles.
The bulls also have the curious habit of horning the ground at mud puddles, carrying the caked mud off with them on their headdress…
The IUCN consider the nyala’s conservation status to be of “least concern“, with a population of at least 32,000. The best places in South Africa to see these graceful antelope is the Kruger National Park (especially at Pafuri in the far north of the Park), Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, uMkhuze Game Reserve, and Tembe Elephant Park, though they occur in a number of other state and private reserves as well.