February 15, 2012

CAMP DIARIES: ‘FIGHTING’ AT ITS MOST BEAUTIFUL – MAKULEKE, 14 FEBRUARY 2012


In the natural world, it’s all about survival of the fittest. And this of course entails fierce competition for food and mating rights. By now you’ve probably conjured up images of teeth snarling and jaws crushing, blood and guts galore. But it doesn’t always go like this, as sometimes not even a sound is uttered and movement is but restricted to a marvellous minimum.

As it is so clearly displayed by this nyala bull that EcoTraining instructor Mark Gunn recently filmed in the northern Kruger National Park where our Makuleke wilderness camp lies. The group of students that were attending a FGASA Level One course were indeed very fortunate to witness this spectacular display, especially after they heard about the term pilo erection during one of their lectures.

So, sit back and enjoy this unique piece of animal behavior…


Nyala bulls tend to back away from physical confrontation, instead relying on the lateral presentation (as seen in Mark’s video clip) when they encounter each other. They can raise their long mane and fringe to make themselves look up to 40% bigger, in this case therefore size does matter!

With the dorsal crest raised, the two opponents will approach each other in a very special manner, slow walking and lifting each leg high with the orange lower legs becoming very conspicuous. The more intense ‘the fight’, the slower the movement and the lower the head. At the highest intensity, the movement stops, the tail is draped over the rump, fully fluffed.

Males that perform this all-out display always win. The looser has to back off and the winner walks away with the spoils, whether it be the ‘girl’ and the all-important mating rights or a prime piece of real estate. (Info: The behaviour guide to African mammals – Richard Despard Estes)

(Thank you Mark Gunn for the photo and video clip!)

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