Fight to the death

go! - - Upfront Letters -

QHENNIE VAN DEVENTER from Melk­bosstrand writes: I saw these im­palas near Satara in the Kruger Park – the one was dead. The ram care­fully ap­proached the body, sniffed and licked it, then took a step back to see what would hap­pen. He re­peated the process and even tried to rouse the dead im­pala by jump­ing on it. Why did he do this?

AWildlife ex­pert LD VAN ES­SEN says: I sus­pect the two rams had been fight­ing ear­lier. In May and June, im­pala rams bat­tle it out over ter­ri­tory and ewes. The fact that the liv­ing ram jumped on the dead one and nudged it with its head points to ag­gres­sion – some­thing the ram’s body lan­guage in the photo also sug­gests. It’s not a com­mon oc­cur­rence, but an­te­lope can se­ri­ously wound and even kill each other dur­ing a fight. If the tip of a ram’s horn nicks an artery of its en­emy, the wounded an­te­lope will bleed to death. The win­ner usu­ally chases the loser and stabs it in the sides with its horns, which can also be fa­tal. Nor­mally the loser man­ages to run away, but in this case it seems to have suc­cumbed to its in­juries and the other ram kept attacking.

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