Shot of the Month – June 2009
I have a collection of photos on my wall at home and at work. At times visitors or friends come by and walk along the wall and review the collection.
Some of the images provoke “ooohs and ahhhs.” Others make people laugh or smile. Some get an “eewwh” – well, some lion shots can get a little bloody, for example.
When people discover this image it tends to induce a small skit:
- Slowly walking, glance at the photo. Small recoil followed by a double take.
- Walk back and get in close for a good look. Squint a bit. Peer from the right. Now from the left
- Turn and look back at me: “What in the world is that?” or “Is that real?”
Yep, it is indeed real, and no, I did not shrink his head using some software tricks. It is all genuine and it is a Gerenuk.
Gerenuks are a type of antelope that live in the arid regions of East Africa, typically found in eastern Kenya and Ethiopia, and parts of Somalia. The word Gerenuk actually comes from the Somali and means “giraffe-necked.”
What we have here is another example of keen adaptation to one’s surroundings. Changes in their spine, muscles, and bone structure allow the Generuk to stand up straight on its hind legs. This unique behavior, and that long neck, allows the species to exploit a very precise feeding niche. Giraffes have the tops of trees covered, while shorter antelopes and gazelles like Dik Dik, Thomson’s Gazelle, and Impala eat at the bottom half of bushes. Gerenuks saw an opportunity and adapted – by standing up and stretching their necks they can reach leaves that are six to eight feet off the ground – a feeding zone that few others can reach.
Gerenuks live in arid regions where water is scarce. Turns out that they can go months without drinking water by being very selective about what they eat. Gerenuks only eat the newest shoots and most succulent leaves of bushes and trees, often reaching into the middle branches to find the finest morsels. They also eat buds, flowers, and fruit, but they do not eat grass. This fastidious diet allows them to get all the moisture they need without drinking water and thrive in habitats where few animals can. Smart (and tasty).
While many are shocked to learn of such a beast, it seems that they have been around for a long time. Although European scientists did not discover the Gerenuk until 1898, drawings of these other worldly creatures can be found on Egyptian art from 5600 B.C.
Hmmn, alien-looking creature. Found on Egyptian art. Some people think the pyramids could only have been built with the help of aliens. Do you think that maybe Gerenuks were, well, you know…..ok, never mind. Forget I mentioned it.
Be like a Gerenuk – find your niche and prosper.