Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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My favorite inhabitants of the park are the lean, horned impala. They're quick, graceful, beautiful, and can be found absolutely everywhere. After an hour in the park we stopped even mentioning them out loud as there are just so many of them. Regardless, they're wonderful to watch run and frolic through the bush in their huge packs. The impalas also go by another, less formal name: McDonalds. This name comes both from the distinctive "golden arches" fur pattern on their rear (apparently it helps them follow each other through the brush), as well as for them being a major source of food for many of the park's predators.

Giraffes are just the strangest animals. It's hard to believe that they're evolutionarily fit, but it kinda makes sense when you watch them. They've got an incredible ability to watch for danger - so good that other animals, such as zebras, tend to stick around to see if the giraffe sees anything. They can get the good leaves that nobody else can (though elephants I guess can get the same leaves, as they just rip the tree to the ground). They're fast, but a bit awkward and prone to slipping on rocky surfaces (a major hunting technique for lions). And, apparently their swinging head packs quite a whallop. When fighting for mates, male giraffes pull back and aim their horns at their opponents' necks, hoping to strike a vertebrae and send the other flailing. Incidentally, male horns have the fur worn off of the tips of their horns, while females do not.
Though the animals in Kruger aren't really that afraid of people, and generally can't distinguish between a car and any other large moving rock, they still don't like to look at you. Thus, we see lots of animal butts. Note, however, the nice telephoto effect on this picture: Ali suggested that I stick my monocular (like half a pair of binoculars, or a small telescope) in front of my camera and see what happens. To my amazement, it works exceptionally well. It takes some effort to get things dialed in right focus-wise, but the 8x zoom, combined with my camera's 7.5x zoom, really makes a difference.
It takes some getting used to seeing strange and exotic animals, such as zebras, just kinda hanging out and doing their thing. The vegetation in Kruger is very dry, which is good for us as it makes the animals move around more to find food and water (increasing our chances of finding them). Most of the trees are actually very small, which makes this pair of tall tress really stand out. Also, a tip I was told from our guide: when walking in the bush, always keep an eye out for tall, climbable trees. In general, they're your only defense, as just about everything can outrun you.

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