Saturday, April 19, 2008

Regal Antelopes

Probably the most handsome-looking antelope in southern Africa is the kudu. It's identifiable by its high, corkscrew horns, a series of vertical white stripes on its flanks and rump, and a horizontal white band between the eyes. When kudu feel threatened and take flight, the males lay their horns back on the body to avoid becoming entangled with tree branches or thick bushes, their natural habitat, since kudu are mainly browsers.

Trivia: kudu are skilled jumpers and can easily clear fences 2m high, or leap right across most roads - despite their size and weight.

A kudu's "cousin", the nyala, carries a pair of tall, lyre-shaped horns. This photo is of a young bull, whose horns haven't properly developed yet (taken in Hluhluwe Game reserve, KwaZulu-Natal). The nyala can also be distinguished from the kudu by its yellow-coloured lower legs.

Check this photo (left) of a fully grown nyala female. Can you see how distinctly different the form and colouring between a nyala male and female are? Although most female antelope bear no horns, they usually are similar in size to the males of their species - in contrast to nyala.

Trivia: the nyala female is about the size of an impala antelope, and is therefore called a ewe, whilst the nyala male is classified as a bull (NOT a ram).

Well done Quinton (our son-in-law), who took this fantastic photo (also the kudu-photo above during a family "outing" to the Kruger Nat. Park) of a bushbuck, which is also related to the kudu and nyala. It's not easy to get such clear visuals of this notoriously shy antelope, which also is mostly solitary. The bushbuck is identifiable by its white facial markings and mainly white spots (> stripes) on the flanks and hindquarters. A bushbuck male has sharp, slightly spiralled horns - known to have killed leopards and humans!

I'm proud of this photo of 2 young bushbuck, because I think the colour "composition" is so attractive. In contrast to Quinton, who photographs with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, my camera nowadays (I started off with an HP Digital Camera) is a less "powerful" Canon Powershot S3 IS - but still takes great photos.

I also "found" this waterbuck (right) in the Kruger Park. Waterbuck have coarse, shaggy coats and as their name suggests, tend to dwell near water. The bull bears a magnificent set of horns, which are heavily ridged and "sweep" forward in a gentle curve. Waterbuck are powerful swimmers and often seek refuge in water when feeling threatened by a predator in the vicinity.

I love this photo (left) for various reasons - mainly because the distinctive white "target" rings encircling the rumps of waterbuck are clearly visible, but also because the female waterbuck "posing" in the front appears so inquisitive yet confidential at the same time. Check the snout - it's heart-shaped!

Not the clearest of photos (right), because I took it through the window of a bus AND "overdid" the digital zoom, because these two fighting male bushbuck were far away. But I thought the way their horns formed a circle when they "eye-balled" each other, as too irresistible not to "snap". Bushbuck bulls are known as fierce fighters, but in this case, it appeared to be more an intimidating display of strength - one male trying to deter another from entering its defined territory.

Would you be interested in my photos with higher resolution (the original photos)? Please comment (click on comments below).
I'm busy researching if it's viable to create another blog, from which my high resolution photos can be downloaded.

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