Topi | African Wildlife Foundation

The topi populations are
isolated and scattered

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Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • Population estimate of 300K individuals
  • There are 5 subspecies of topi
  • Regionally extinct in 6 African countries

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Damaliscus lunatus


200 to 300 lb.


3.5 to 4.5 ft. tall at the shoulder

Life span

15 years






8 months


Lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, hunting dogs, humans


Where do topis live?

Their favorite habitats are floodplains, but they are sometimes found in dry areas of open savanna and park woodland, taking to the shade during the heat of the day. The largest number of topis are found in Southern Sudan and in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park.

Tags: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, DRC, Kenya, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kazungula, Limpopo, Regional Parc W, East Africa, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a topi?

The topi is a medium­-sized antelope with a striking reddish-brown to purplish-red coat. Distinct black patches appear on the face, the upper forelegs, and on the hips and thighs. To complete its singular appearance, the topi's yellowish-tan legs look like they are encased in stockings.

Although not quite as large as its relative the hartebeest (kongoni), the topi has a similar body shape. However, it does not have such a long, narrow head, nor is it as high at the shoulder. The female topi is usually lighter in color than the male. Both sexes have thick, heavily ringed, lyre-shaped horns that are about 21 inches long. Topis have good sight and hearing and can run quite fast with a bounding gait.

Behavior & Diet

The topi is a picky eater.

It only eats grass—its narrow muzzle being well-adapted for selecting the most tender growth. They graze for a while and then rest and chew their cud before continuing feeding. The topi can go without water for long periods of time only if it has access to green pastures. If green grazing is not available, the topi must drink daily.

They are extroverted and even mingle outside of their species. 

Topis are exceptionally gregarious and live in herds of 15 to 20. In some places, it is possible to see herds of hundreds. They have a flexible social structure. Sedentary populations display the usual residence pattern—small herds led by a dominant male. During migratory periods, large numbers of animals congregate together indiscriminately. When the group stops, even if for just a few hours, males establish small, temporary territories in which they shepherd the females.

The topi also spends much of its time with other antelopes, such as wildebeest, and also with zebras and ostriches.

Females can actually delay giving birth if there is imminent danger.

Calving normally occurs once a year and is timed for periods when grass supplies are plentiful. Nonetheless, topis are almost as flexible in their reproduction as they are in social organization. If food supplies are particularly good, topis will conceive at different times of the year, with shorter intervals between calves. Females have also developed the ability to stall the labor process if they sense immediate danger.

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Habitat loss is a major strain on topi populations.

Human populations are growing and expanding agriculture, roads, and settlements, leading to loss of living space for the topi and resulting in many complications. The topi’s ecological and dietary limitations make it more difficult for them to compete for resources. Hardier antelopes, like the wildebeest, fare better in less favorable conditions. Livestock are also out-competing topis on grazing ranges during the dry season.


Our solutions to protecting the topi:

  • Engage governments.

    African Wildlife Foundation works with government entities to help plan and propose alternative solutions to habitat fragmentation. In the case of the Serengeti Highway, which would disrupt migratory patterns and segment habitats, AWF provides its scientists and researchers as resources to assist in proper planning to ensure a balance between modernization and conservation. 

  • Grow conservation tourism.

    AWF brings communities together with private investors to construct tourism lodges like Satao Elerai, a luxury lodge situated on 5,000 acres in Kenya. The land is protected, so topis and other wildlife can roam safely and freely, and the revenue is reinvested into the community and into local wildlife conservation. 

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