Of the wild animals we have seen and photographed over the years, none have seemed more illusive than Gerenuks. We had our ground operator do some research and we learned recent sightings had been made in Meru, Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Parks in Northeastern Kenya.
What was so special about this graceful gazelle like antelope...their long limbs and (almost llama-like) necks, their smallish and sleek heads (when compared to the size of their bodies), their large soft eyes and beautifully long lashes? Or is it their unique eating habitsstanding on their hind legs and nibbling the tender leaves on middle branches of trees?
Nope, just wanted get some good photographspure and simple.
For five days, we camped at Samburu National Park and Buffalo Springs National Parks.
During our first couple of days, wesaw Reticulated Giraffes, Grevy's Zebras, Elephants, Oryx, Somali Ostrich, Hippos, a few Crocodiles, Buffaloes, Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs and Hyenas.but no Gerenuks!
Our guide suggested tracking on foot. We got permission from the Park Supervisor and hired two armed park rangers to accompany us. Since predators, we were told; were active most mornings..we thought the two armed rangers were more a necessity than luxury as we did not wish to be eaten for breakfast!
One of the rangerssaid we would trek along approved trails and try to located fresh Gerenuk guano (all of that stuff basically looked the same lying in the dirt.some a little biggersome a little smaller.but pretty much the same to us). That trail ran parallel to the river and near several large stands of Acacia trees.
The Plan:Arrive early, park our Land Rover, hike to the river, find concealment and wait. After a houror so passed and we heard some noisesand saw some movements in distant grasses.
The ranger pointed to a troop of Olive Baboons (Papio cynocephalus anubis) moving along the bank. He said they were forging forfood and frequently passed through this area. Must have smelled us -they halted; stood erect and stared our way..so much forconcealment (we couldnt even hide from Baboons)!
Were the Baboons going to be a problem for us, I asked the ranger. No, he informed me they are lazy scoundrels and hooligans that steal food from camps and lodges. Baboons are omnivores," he said, selective feeders (umh, did selective include a taste of Homosapiens)preferring grasses and leaves, roots, berries, seeds, blossoms, bits of bark and bugs and small animals (we felt much safer).
He told us to be quiet and the Baboons would ignore us and move along (I wondered how much he really knew about BaboonsI had wondered earlier if hehad live ammunition for the old rifle he carried).
I pulled out my binoculars and decided to watch the troop for a while; figuring the rangers would alert us if any Gerenuks showed. Several of the female Baboons had young ones and were caring for them while the males and other females busily forged about for le petit dejeuner.
There was one female in particular whowas mostattentive to her young one. I wascaptivated by therelationship between the two of them; watching helped pass the timeas we remainedGerenuk-less.
The sun got hotter andI was tiring of the bugs biting my legs and arms.
I continued to focus my binoculars on the one female; fascinated by her tolerance of her frisky young one. He wanted to play and scamper about and kept trying to pull free, but she never allowed him to venture too far.usually not more than an arms length or so. She persisted in holding him in tow. She clung to the squirming and rambunctious little guy. He rolled about and vocalized his displeasure at being tethered by his Mom.but she would have no part of his scampering away on his own.
To settle him, she picked him up by his neck, softly began to preen him, stroked his tiny head and rubbed his little back as she encouraged him suckled her. He settled down and they both sat quietly as I stared in amazement at how attentively she delivered nurturing care.
I couldnt think of a more caring mother, human or otherwise.totally focused on the needs of her young one, disregarding, to a great extent, her own personal safety and even apparently oblivious to the prying eyes of her human observer. What a compelling and tender scene in such a potentially hostile and dangerous environment.
I picked up my Nikon, focused on the two of them and squeezed off a few frames.
Suddenly, our guide poked my shoulder, pointed in the other direction and whispered, Gerenuks!
It was a good day; five Gerenuks cautiously strolled around the cluster of Acacia trees, and one by one gracefully rose on their hind legs and munched away on those tender green leaves. I steadied the Nikon, focused tightly on one ofmy newly discovered treasures and got the money shots I had been waiting for!
After watching and photographing the Gerenuk for a while, I turned around to see what the Baboons were doing..they had already moved on and were no longer in sight.
Weeks later, after returning home, we spent hours sorting through and editing our safari photos. Many of the pictures exceeded our expectations, including those taken of the Gerenuks. They are now all filed away and backed up on our external hard drive to be viewed occasionally with friends.
Only one exception; I made a print of the female Olive Baboon andyoung oneand still keepit in a small frame on a bookcase shelf in my office.
In theglobal sense, it is just another picture of two wild animals, struggling to survive another dayalong a dusty river bank in a remote part of East Africa. The scene is likely repeated thousands of times daily around the world!
However, that moment, for me,captureda great deal ofintensityand theimage stillevokes special feelings when I look at it.
Thepicture reminds meof the importance of Motherly Love and Tender Care..qualities I consider so important to a new life. all new lives for that matter, regardless of the speciesno matter how difficult or comfortable the surroundings!
Message Edited by omegaet on 03-13-2008 12:30 PM