Nyala Fact File
Male and female nyala are significantly different in their appearance to the point that some people identify them as different species. Males are significantly larger and are covered with charcoal grey fur with the lower legs, ears and foreheads being tan. Under the throat and running back to between the lower legs is a fringe of hair. Running along the back is an erect crest of hair colored grey and tipped with white.
On top of the males heads are a pair of impressive horns. These twist 1.5-2.5 times and may measure 60-83cm (24-33in) long. Females do not have horns.
Females have a body covered with tan or chestnut fur.
Both the male and female have 8-13 white stripes running across their back. On the legs, chest and cheeks are spots and bands. Their tail is bushy and white on the underside. Between the eyes of the male and female is a white stripe.
At the shoulder the males stand 1m (3.3ft) tall with females being slightly shorter than this. They measure 1.4-1.6m (4.5-5.25ft) long. Males weigh up to 115kg (253.5lbs) and females weigh 59kg (130lbs).
The nyala is a herbivore. They feed on a range of leaves, twigs, grasses, flowers and fruit.
When water is available they drink daily though when water is scarce they can survive on small amounts of fluids.
They have been observed following baboons and eating the fruit which they drop on to the floor.
Male 115kg (253.5lbs)
Female 59kg (130lbs)
— AD —
Africa is the native home of the nyala where they can be found in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. They went extinct in Eswatini but have been reintroduced. A population was introduced in Namibia and they have spread to Botswana from farm populations in adjacent South Africa.
Nyala make their home in dense thickets, forests and woodland. Their range is often located close to a permanent water source.
The nyala can breed year round though there is a peak in mating during summer.
Their gestation is 7 months with a single calf being most common but twins also occur.
Following its birth the calf will spend 10-18 days resting away from the herd hidden in bushes and long grass. This keeps them safe from predators such as lions, hyenas, leopards and African wild dogs. Following this they begin to move around with their mother and start to graze.
At birth the calf resembles a smaller version of the mother. One theory for this color while young is that it prevents them from aggression by older males while they grow up.
Males will typically push the calf away from their mother when she next comes in to estrus and is ready to have another calf.
Sexual maturity is reached between 14 and 18 months old.
Males maintain a loose home territory though appear tolerant of other males passing through this. They are primarily solitary.
Females and juveniles live in a loose herd. This may number anywhere from 2-30 individuals. Larger herds are possible at a good feeding site or watering hole.
Most of the activities they undertake occur in the evening and night though they can be active by day.
They can produce a deep, barking call which alarms other members of the herd. Nyala can also react to other alarm calls in their habitat such as those of baboons, impala or kudu.
Predators and Threats
At present the IUCN identify no major threats to the nyala. Instead it is possible that humans have helped increase their number as a result of overgrazing by cows increasing the amount of herbs which they graze on being available.
They are hunted as a trophy and affected by introduced diseases.
They are related to the mountain nyala which is found in northern Africa.
Copyright. The Animal Facts.
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
Krugerpark.co.za. 2020. Nyala – Antelope – Kruger National Park, South Africa. [online] Available at: <http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_nyala.html> [Accessed 29 July 2020].
IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. 2016. Tragelaphus angasii (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22052A115165681. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22052A50196443.en. Downloaded on 29 July 2020.
Copyright The Animal Facts 2023