Topi, Maasai Mara
The topi (Damaliscus lunatus jimela) is a highly social and fast antelope subspecies of the common tsessebe, a species which belongs to the genus Damaliscus. They are found in the savannas, semi-deserts, and floodplains of sub-Saharan Africa.
Topi resemble hartebeest but have a darker coloration and lack sharply angled horns. They have elongated heads, a distinct hump at the base of the neck, and reddish brown bodies with dark purple patchings on their upper legs. They also have a mask-like dark coloration on the face. Their horns are ringed and lyrate shaped. Their coats are made of short, shiny hairs. They range in mass from 68 to 160 kg (150 to 353 lb). Head-and-body length can range from 150 to 210 cm (59 to 83 in) and the tail measures 40–60 cm (16–24 in). They are a tall species, ranging in height from 100 to 130 cm (39 to 51 in) at the shoulder. Males tend to be larger and darker than females. Topi also have preorbital glands that secrete clear oil and the front legs have hoof glands.
The topi has a long but patchy distribution, as it prefers certain grasslands in arid and savanna biomes. Human hunting and habitat destruction have further isolated their population.
Topi live primarily in grassland habitats ranging from treeless plains to savannas. In ecotone habitats between woodlands and open grasslands, they stay along the edge using the shade in hot weather. They prefer pastures with green grass that is medium in height with leaf-like swards. Topis are more densely populated in areas where green plants last into the dry season, particularly near water. The topi is a selective feeder and uses its elongated muzzle and flexible lips to forage for the freshest plants. When foraging for food, topi tend to take small bites at a fast rate. Topi generally frequent flat lowlands and at elevations below 1500 m. When they have access to enough green vegetation, topi usually do not have to drink. They drink more when relying on dry grass. Topi use vantage points, such as termite mounds, to get a good look at their surroundings.
Topi are usually either numerous or absent in an area. Scattered populations do not last long and either increase or die off. The health of topis in a population depends on access to green vegetation. Herds of topi migrate between pastures. Predators of topi include lions and spotted hyenas, with jackals being predators of newborns. They are especially targeted by hyenas.Nevertheless, topi tend to have a low predation rate when other species are present.
The topi is currently classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN.