African Safari (Kenya) Pt.9
The grassland plains adjacent to Lake Nakuru provide a habitat where its animals seldom, if ever, directly interact with the lake. Hard to believe that so much diversity exists in such a small area. The largest inhabitants are the White Rhinoceros. As the story goes, a Dutch word meaning “wide” was misinterpreted by the English resulting in white rather than wide mouthed rhino. Imported into the park from South Africa during the 1980’s by the government in a desperate attempt to help avoid extinction, this species has adapted well and flourishes here. These armor clad eating machines are the lawn mowers of the region.
The warm morning sun highlights the problem dogging this poor sighted herbivore to near extinction. Those damn horns (actually tightly woven wire-like hair) have resulted in the slaughter of tens of thousands of these animals for black market sale to Asians believing they have medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities. Arabs craft them into sheaths for their curved daggers. Because of the high prices paid, poachers leave bodies scattered across the plains of Africa with just the horns cut off. Disgusting! One thought circulating amongst desperate conservationists is to harvest the horns (tranquilize and remove) thus ending the profit motive, I don’t know how much traction this idea has gained.
Surely, the babies do have a face only a mother could love.
Smaller and more illusive than the White, the Black Rhino is much more difficult to photograph. With its snout-like mouth, you are more likely to find it foraging on grasses and shrubs in the dense underbrush rather than grazing in the open. Only 25 Black Rhinos exist in the Lake Nakuru National Park. Sadly, this represents the highest concentration of Black Rhinos in one location anywhere in the world. I feel privileged to have seen 3 of an estimated 670 total members of this critically endangered species. I hope some miracle solution will be put forth so my grandchildren will be able to view more than a photograph of this magnificent creature.
Unfortunately, the Rhino is not the only endangered species living on these plains. Lake Nakuru is one of the few places Rothschild’s Giraffe can still be observed living in the wild. With only a few hundred left in all of Africa, conservation efforts have not come a second too soon.
The Rothschild’s Giraffe is a little larger than the Reticulated Giraffe we saw in Samburu. Mature males can reach 20 feet tall. The Rothschild’s patterned pelt does not run down their legs leaving them with the appearance of a white stocking.
Nature is truly a marvel. Giraffes use their ears to help shield sunlight from their eyes. So naturally, instead of being covered with dark colors, they are a very reflective white!
More prolific, the Grant Zebra is a striking figure in either the swampy forest or open plains. The bold black and white stripped patterns are like human fingerprints, in that, every one is unique to the individual with no two exactly alike. After a couple of hours of photographing Zebras, you realize you have a lot of shots with heads to the ground grazing or butts in the air fading away from you. It took awhile for me to realize how camera shy they really are.
So you know I was thrilled to get a couple of nice head shots in completely different settings. The first is in the filtered sun of the swampy forest. The green color cast of the environment leaves me with the feeling of a cool relaxed moment.
Contrast that feeling with the warmth of a setting sun in an open plain of golden drying grasses. For me, this evokes an entirely different emotional response.
No matter what lighting temperature new borns are photographed in, they appeal to the emotions in all of us. The brown stripes for the infants are intended to be camouflage in an environment normally dried and burnt at this time of the year.
This well watered plush green background does not offer much protection.
Somehow, the calf of this Cape Buffalo does not elicit the same warm and fuzzing feeling of the Zebra. I am not even sure his mother is all that happy with him.
Sometimes I am so easily amused. I watched for 15 minutes as this poor Cape Buffalo tried to rid herself of the branch lodged in her horns.
This Grant Gazelle seems to be announcing that this is the end for today but we will be seeing you soon.