Scientifically referred to as Damaliscus lunatus jimela, Topis are notably fast and social Species of antelopes belonging to the Damaliscus genus thriving in the semi deserts, savannah and the flood plains of Southern Sahara and is one of the common wild game encountered on safari in Uganda
Regarding the description, the Topi resemble a Hartebeest but it
features a darker coloration and do not have horns that are sharply
angled. They feature elongated heads, reddish brown bodies featuring
dark purple patching on the upper legs, mask like dark face coloration
and a distinct hump at the neck base.
The Topi horns are ringed and
have a lyrate shape and their coat features short shiny hairs. Their
weight ranges from 68 – 160kg while their body length is about 150 –
210cm and the tail has a length of 40 – 60cm. The Topis are remarkably
tall Species ranging from 100 -130cm in height at their shoulder. The
male Topis are considerably larger and appear darker than female Topis.
Their preorbital glands secrete clear oil while their front legs feature
hoof glands. The Topis under pressure can run to more than 80km/h
though they greatly do jog travel. They are noted to be among the
fastest African antelopes as viewed by game viewers on Uganda safaris.
Regarding the range and ecology, it can be noted that Topis feature a
long though patchy spread because of its preference for grasslands in
savannah and arid biomes. The effect of human hunting and the
destruction of its habitat have further facilitated this spread.
Apparently, the Topi antelope can be encountered in the countries of
Uganda, Burundi, DR Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya however is now
regionally extinct in Burundi.
Primarily the Topis thrive in
grassland habitat that range from open plains to impressive savannahs.
They also thrive in habitats in between the open grasslands and the
woodlands and tend to stay on the edge and would keep under the tree
shade in times of hot weather. The Topis prefer to dwell in green grass
pastures of medium length featuring leafy-like swards. They would dwell
more in areas where the green plants would extend to the dry season and
close to the water points. The Topis are considerable selective grazers
and apply their long muzzle and the lips that are flexible thus able to
forage on the plants that are very fresh. While foraging, the Topi do
small bites but at a fast rate. This antelope usually frequent flat
lowlands of an elevation 1500m and below and when they have got
accessibility to adequate green vegetation, the topis do not require
taking water always. The Topis would drink more while feeding on dry
grass and they usually use vantage points like termite mounds to gain
clear looks of the surrounding area.
It can be noted that the Topis
are either many or do not exist in the area. The populations that are
scattered usually wither out or increase. The Topi health would depend
on green vegetation accessibility and would migrate on to new pastures
such as in Serengeti National Park where they move along the
wildebeests, the gazelles and zebras.
The main predators of Topis
include; the lions, cheetahs, leopards, the spotted hyenas, hunting
dogs. The Calves of Topis are susceptible to servals, jackals, caracals,
large eagles and pythons. It can be noted that the Topis would have low
predation rate when other species are present. Calves are also
Regarding social structure and reproduction, the
Topis feature a social organization that is most diverse among the
antelopes. The herds of Topis feature a perennially sedentary dispersion
form or are perennially mobile aggregated or anything amidst. This
arrangement would depend on the ecology and the habitat where they
thrive. The reproductive organization would range from being territorial
system to gatherings that feature short lasting territories and lek
arrangements. In grassland patches that are surrounded by woodlands, the
Topis would thrive in sedentary-dispersion arrangement.
Topis set up territories to entice female herds along with their
offspring and according to the patch sizes, the Topi territories can be
4km2 or beyond. The female fidelity in a given territory can last three
(3) years and the female thriving in the territories performs as part of
the male harem that is resident. The Topi herds are usually closed
unless the new females are allowed in the group. In situations where the
resident male is absent, the female dominant would undertake the
defense of the territory by assuming the male behaviors including the
high stepping display and rocking canter. In areas where there is great
Topi concentration like the Uganda safari
of Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda, the Topi would move across the
plain and then form territories in the resting periods.
Akagera and Kenya’s Maasai Mara, the male Topis would form leks which
are simply clustered together territories. The dominant males are at the
lek’s center while the periphery is dominated by the less dominant. The
Male Topis would mark their territories with the piles of dung and
would stand on them in erect posture dedicated to fight any invading
male. The Estrous females enter the leks either in groups or alone and
then mate with the males in the Lek’s Center. The Center males would
increase their success in reproduction if they are close to water
bodies. The females tend to compete amongst themselves for the males
that are dominant. The females experience estrous for only one day in
the whole year and prefer to mate with the males that they have ever
mated with though the males would try to mate with many new females as
they can. As a result, the preferred males would try as much as possible
to balance between the females. The females would disrupt aggressively
the copulations that their preferred males would have with the other
females. The inferior females would have their copulations sabotaged by
the dominant females but the dominant females would have stable
copulations. The Male Topis would finally counter attack the females and
stop mating with them anymore.
The main Topi birth appears from
October to December with close to a half of them happening in October.
The calves follow their mothers after birth; the mothers isolate
themselves from the herd to do the calving while the calves would seek
keep in hiding places during the night. The calf would stay with the
mother for a year up to when it gives birth to a new calf. The Topis
feature a gestation period of 8 months
Regarding Conservation and
status, though the Topis are not all that threatened and as a result
remain common, they have reduced from considerable parts of their
initial range. They feature 15 years of life expectancy and are listed
on IUCN red list as least Concern.