Aepyceros melampus 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Bovidae

Scientific Name: Aepyceros melampus
Species Authority: (Lichtenstein, 1812)
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Impala, Black-faced Impala, Common Impala
French Impala
Taxonomic Notes: Two subspecies are generally recognized, supported by molecular data (Nersting and Arctander 2001, Lorenzen et al. 2006): the Common Impala (A. m. melampus) and the Black-faced Impala (A. m. petersi).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-01-07
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Hoffmann, M. & Mallon, D.
The Impala is assessed as Least Concern as Impala are still relatively widespread, common and abundant in numerous protected areas. The population is estimated at almost two million, of which about 50% are on private land (stable or increasing) and 25% in protected areas (stable). The remaining 25% are stable or decreasing. Its future is secure as long as it continues to occur in large, adequately protected and managed populations in protected areas and private farms and conservancies. Most of the largest populations are stable or increasing.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Impala (Aepyceros melampus) formerly occurred widely in southern and East Africa, from central and southern Kenya and north-east Uganda to northern KwaZulu-Natal, with a small disjunct population of Black-faced Impala in north-west Namibia and south-east Angola. Their current distribution remains largely unchanged from their historical range, although it has been eliminated from parts by hunting for meat and the spread of settlement (e.g., they now only occur in south-west Uganda, and have been extirpated from Burundi) (East 1999, Fritz and Bourgarel 2013). Common Impala have been introduced to numerous privately owned game ranches and small reserves throughout southern Africa. Impala have also been introduced in two protected areas in Gabon, although here they are in decline (P. Chardonnet pers. comm). In Namibia, the Black-faced Impala is naturally confined to the Kaokoland in the north-west, and neighbouring south-western Angola.
Countries occurrence:
Angola (Angola); Botswana; Kenya; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; Rwanda; South Africa; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Regionally extinct:
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):1700
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Population estimates are available for most of the Impala’s current range. East (1999) summed these estimates to produce a total population of 1,584,000 Common Impala and 2,200 Black-faced Impala, but the former does not allow for undercounting in aerial surveys or those areas for which population estimates are unavailable. Correcting for undercounting biases, East (1999) estimated the total numbers of Common Impala at ca 2 million. East's estimate of 2,200 for Black-faced Impala is slightly lower than that estimated by Green and Rothstein (1998), who estimated numbers in Etosha at around 1,500 individuals, with an additional 1,200 on private land, and the total population in Kaokoland at around 500. As of 2007, numbers in Etosha and private ranches are estimated at about 3,200 with a further 50-100 on conservancies (all stable and increasing); numbers in the north-west (the original native range) may number approximately 1,000 (J. Jackson in litt to ASG 2007). As noted by Fritz and Bourgarel (2013), actual recorded densities of Impala vary substantially, from less than 1/km² in Mkomazi National Park (Tanzania) to as many as 135/km² on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe (Bourgarel 1998). In the wooded savanna of Akagera N.P. in Rwanda, where Monfort (1972) recorded densities of 214/km², total numbers declined by about 75-80% between 1990 and 1998 (Williams and Ntayombya 1999).
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:2000000
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Impala is a water-dependent and typical ecotone species, associated with light woodlands and savannahs, selecting open Acacia savannas with nutrient-rich soils providing good-quality grass, and high-quality browse in the dry season (Fritz and Bourgarel 2013). Impala are absent from montane ecosystems, recorded to about 1,700 m on the slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro (Grimshaw et al. 1995). In their semi-arid environment, Black-faced Impala also select the interface between wooded savanna and open grassy vleis (Joubert 1971, Matson et al. 2005).
Generation Length (years):5.7

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Impala are subject to consumptive purposes including hunting safaris, local use and harvesting for export. Impala are the most common antelope taken on hunting safaris in South Africa and are the second most numerous species harvested for use as biltong (after Springbok Antidorcas marsupialis; Van der Merwe and Saayman 2003). Owing to its high rate of reproduction and great adaptability, the Impala has also become of prime interest for meat production (e.g., Fairall 1983, Bothma 1989), not only on wildlife ranches but also in remote communal areas (e.g., Feron et al. 1998; Averbeck 2001, 2002; Bourgarel et al. 2001). In 2004, Impala meat constituted the eighth highest weight of commercially produced game meat that was exported from South Africa (Patterson and Khosa 2005).  The Black-faced Impala is also affected but to a lesser extent and the Namibian government has a management plan to strictly regulate harvests.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threat to Common Impala seems to be active poaching at the edge of, and within, protected areas (with strong influence on densities as well as population structure) combined with agro-pastoral development (Setsaasa et al. 2007, Averbeck et al. 2009). Hunting risk is also likely to affect Impala behaviour, such as change in habitat selection or waterhole attendance (Crosmary et al. 2012). Poaching, livestock development and severe drought were the main factors contributing to the decline of Black-faced Impala (Green and Rothstein 1998, East 1999). The reintroduction of 180 individuals from Kaokoland to the west of Etosha National Park between 1968 and 1971 helped promote the conservation of the Black-faced subspecies, and a few were translocated from Etosha to private game farms in Namibia (Fritz and Bourgarel 2013). However, the introduction of Common Impala to ranches and conservancies neighbouring Etosha National Park may represent a threat to the Black-faced Impala through hybridization. Green and Rothstein (1998) earlier estimated that about one-quarter of all privately owned Black-faced Impala occur in mixed herds with Common Impala. In a recent study, Lorenzen and Siegismund (2004) analysed 127 Black-faced Impala individuals from five subpopulations in Etosha National Park to determine whether any hybridization had taken place within the park, but could not find any definite evidence.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Common Impala is one of the most abundant antelopes in Africa, with about one-quarter of the population occurring in protected areas. The largest numbers occurring in areas such as the Mara and Kajiado (Kenya), Serengeti, Ruaha and Selous (Tanzania), Luangwa Valley (Zambia), Okavango (Botswana), Hwange, Sebungwe and the Zambezi Valley (Zimbabwe), Kruger (South Africa) and on private farms and conservancies (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia) (East 1999). Its future is secure as long as it continues to occur in large, adequately protected and managed populations in protected areas and private farms and conservancies. The main surviving populations of the Black-faced Impala occur in Etosha National Park and private farms in Namibia. The numbers of the Black-faced Impala should continue to increase in protected areas and on private land, although it remains at potential risk from hybridization with the Common Impala (East 1999). The Namibian government has a management plan to eliminate hybridization with Common Impala and strictly regulate harvests. The Namibian Professional Hunters Association has a Black-faced Impala committee and the NGO Conservation Force has a long-term involvement in all aspects of its conservation including funding of the management plan. Good management practices make the future of the taxon secure for now (J. Jackson in litt to ASG 2007).

Citation: IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. 2016. Aepyceros melampus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T550A50180828. . Downloaded on 23 October 2016.
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