When I think of giraffes and wildebeests and zebras and cheetahs, I think of our recent safari in East Africa, not Texas. However, there are over 50 species of animals--many from Africa--wandering around a 1,700 acre preserve a few hours outside Dallas/Fort Worth, and our self-guided driving tour on nine miles of roads through the park resulted in far better photo opportunities (although far less authentic) than we had in Africa.
I decided to present my pictures alphabetically by species, which by pure luck saves my most favorite experience for last.
Also known as the screwhorn antelope, the addax lives in the Sahara Desert and is the most desert-adapted of all the antelopes. It can go most of its life without drinking, instead pulling moisture from the plants it eats. It has become critically endangered due to overhunting. Its spectacular corkscrew horns can be up to 33" long:
Addaxes are bleached-white in color (good camouflage for the Sahara) and have a distinctive brown toupee:
He seemed to like having his chin scratched, just like a dog:
Please, sir, can I have some more?
AOUDAD (aka Barbary Sheep)
I love the name aoudad (pronounced OW-dad). With its long beard, it reminds me of the Three Billy Goats Gruff fairy tale. (Goats, sheep--they're all the same to me.) Aoudads, native to North Africa, are the only native African sheep.
Who wouldn't love this cute face?
I think the aoudads make excellent patriarchs for Fossil Rim:
Although these huge, hairy beasts are quintessentially American, there is something about their physiognomy that fits in well with the "immigrant" animals:
Native to India, blackbucks, a species of antelope, are on the "near threatened" list. They remind me a lot of gazelles, especially the tan and white-colored females:
Due to their popularity on hunting ranches, there are more blackbucks in Texas than in their native India:
Fossil Rim has a few cheetahs, but understandably, they can't just run wild in the Park. It would be dangerous to the visitors, it would definitely be dangerous to the grazing wildlife, and it would be hard to contain them within the park boundaries.
post), we were not that impressed with a few lackadaisical cheetahs sitting in a chain-link enclosure, but it is still cool that Fossil Rim breeds this very endangered animal, producing more than 100 cubs since 1986.
Let's switch to Australia for a moment to see another non-African animal that still manages to fit in with the rest of the critters. Emus are really silly-looking birds:
I don't know how those thin legs hold up that massive body. Emus are the world's second-largest living flightless bird and can weigh as much as 120 pounds.
I wonder where she gets her hair done? I've gotta make sure not to go there:
"Hey! Which one of you guys is giving out the best candy?"
"Enough photos already! Where's my grub?"
Another animal not native to Africa, but rather to Eurasia, makes its home at Fossil Rim. The fallow deer's impossibly large palmate antlers, a cross between moose and elk antlers, coupled with the spotted Bambi-like body, looks a bit unnatural, even prehistoric:
Fallow deer have been introduced into parts of the United States, and wild herds can be found in Georgia, Texas, and Rhode Island.
How about this deer with one fully leafed-out antler on one side and a stunted one on the other?
There are some dramatic color variations among the species. These differently colored boys seem to get along just fine:
Here comes one, checking us out rather surreptitiously:
A little bolder, he approaches Bob's window:
Back to Africa. This picture could have been taken at the Nairobi Giraffe Center or the Buffalo Springs National Reserve in Kenya or several other places we saw giraffes in the plains of Kenya and Tanzania:
These are reticulated giraffes, and as I said in my Africa posts, I never grow tired of watching their slow-motion, graceful gait and the parallel lines their necks always seem to form when they are together:
|Sign in visitor's center, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center|
When a giraffe stands next to your car, this is what you see:
ORYX, ARABIAN (aka Gemsbok)
These are animals we were very familiar with from our African safari:
Their horns can grow to an unbelievable 48", although the average length is 33", the same as those corkscrew horns on the addax. Oryx horns are slightly curved, like a parabola. African tribal masks are modeled after their distinctive facial markings:
"Ready for my photo session. Here's my flank."
Cousin to the Arabian oryx/gemsbok, these guys have been extinct in the wild for about fifteen years. Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is participating in the efforts to breed enough babies so that they can be reintroduced into the wilds of North Africa:
|Sign in visitors center, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center|
It's a kick to be able to interact with an animal that was hunted nearly to extinction for its horns and has just recently been rescued:
They seem so gentle, but every magical creature has its weapon, and I probably shouldn't forget that a scimitar is a single-edged sword.
When I was a kid, I loved Swiss Family Robinson, especially the scene where the family members are racing, each on a different animal. The mount I was always envious of was Ernst the Ostrich. Nevermind that the story takes place in the East Indies and ostriches are from Africa. Never mind that they could never hold the weight of a human. They can run 40 mph, making them at least a contender in the race.
C. S. Lewis's book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is one of my favorite books of all time. When I saw my first red deer at Fossil Rim, I immediately thought of the White Stag in that book. Yeah, the color is just a bit off, but the regal bearing, shaggy coat, and impressive antlers are spot-on.
They look a lot like American elk, and like elk, they shed their antlers each year in February and regrow them quickly. I wonder what Fossil Rim does with the discards?
"Scratch me right there . . . oh yeah, that feels great."
"Hey! I smell something good in there! Are you holding out on me?"
"Okay, it's time for a snack, but it's a little hard to get to my food with this big hat on."
|One male with his extensive harem|
With only 2,400 in the wild, the southern black rhino is a critically endangered species. Fossil Rim has a corral full.
That one on the right has a horn that looks like a divining rod:
A black rhino can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds, which seems like a lot, but the white rhino gets as big as 5,000 pounds.
We weren't allowed to get out and feed these guys. No surprise as they can get very aggressive when they feel threatened.
RIO GRANDE TURKEY
Man oh man these birds are ugly. What was Ben Franklin thinking when he suggested they be our national bird? Being not that attractive himself, maybe he could relate in some way.
I think these turkeys are native to Texas rather than a species brought to Fossil Rim for preservation. Their blue head looks like a vulture's head, and that ridiculous red trim seems to be a jazzed up version of the wavy white wigs that are part of English judicial attire:
Lots of parts:
This one looks like he is wearing a scarf tied under his neck: Tres chic.
These richly colored antelope must be named for the species of marten trapped for its luxurious pelt. The brownish-red fur looks silky and warm.
We saw a lot of these, but they didn't come to our car to get a treat. For some reason, they seemed to prefer those large stacks of hay.
Unlike humans, males' fur darkens as they age, so the oldies get almost black. The females are smaller and lighter in color:
I've had a soft spot in my heart for waterbucks ever since we saw a mama waterbuck watching a cheetah devour her baby on the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya.
Like the turkey, this pretty little deer is native to Texas and has learned where to get a good meal.
WILDEBEEST OR GNU
We saw more wildebeest in Africa than almost any other animal (except for, perhaps, zebras). I will always remember their wonderful braying-honking calls to each other that we called "moonking." We didn't see very many wildebeests at Fossil Rim, and they certainly weren't as friendly as some of the other animals we saw, but it was wonderful to see their great awkwardness once again--like a teenage boy after a growth spurt.
Fossil Rim has Hartmann's mountain zebras, a variety we didn't see on our African safari. They are native to Namibia and Angola. One unique thing about this species is that it has 32 chromosomes rather than the 44 chromosomes of other species. It seems like that should make a bigger difference than it does.
This one, with dark brown facial stripes rather than black, has come to check us out:
I had never touched a zebra before this trip, and I had certainly never had one exhaling lungs full of hot air right into my face. All by itself, feeding this zebra was worth a trip to Texas.
I must say, however, that the poor chap could have used: 1) a good dental hygienist, and 2) a copy of Emily Post's Book of Etiquette. He could have learned a few lessons from his relatives who came by for a visit a bit later on our drive.
Overall, I give the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center an A++. I would love to come here with children. My granddaughters would be in heaven here. Maybe someday we can take them on a trip to Dallas with a detour to Glen Rose.
|Thought from the wall of the visitors center|