Over the past few weeks we have witnessed some intense battles for territory among the many ungulates in the Mara. We first saw two male impalas going head to head about 5 meters from the road we were driving down. Normally an impala will quickly move out of the way when a vehicle approaches, but these brutes were oblivious to our Land Cruiser. With heads low to the ground, they locked their impressive horns and dug their hooves in for traction. I was amazed at how perfectly the horns on these two guys complemented each other. They seemed to fit together like a lock and key. From what I have observed, the variation among impala horns appears to be quite small, with most horns looking identical to the untrained eye.
These two males pushed back and forth, twisting their heads and trying to gain the advantage. This went on for a minute or two, when out of nowhere another male came charging in. He had no intention of waiting to find out the winner. Personally, I would have let them fight it out and then taken on the winner, but hey, I am no impala. The new challenger quickly charged in to show he was the boss. After that a chase ensued where it appeared at times that two of the impala were chasing the other one. The next moment is looked like they were all at war, without alliances between any of the males. The chase quickly carried them about 500 meters away and out of sight. I suspect the third male was the rightful territory owner and the initial two brawlers were bachelors looking to acquire a territory and harem of their own.
In the two weeks following the impala rumble, I have witnessed many battles between male topi. These battles have been less intense than the impala battle. At times the Topi appear as if they are ready to fight to the death, then the next minute they will pause, lift their back leg to scratch a fly of their face, take a look around, and then back to the action. Some of these fights may be between friendly males, just gearing up for future battles. In the past two days we have seen many tiny topi that were born in the last day or two. These new babies will need to nurse for a while before the mothers are ready mate again, at which point I expect the level of competition between the male topis to heat up.