Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Two kudus

I promised pics of antelopes - voila!

Here is an 8-month old female greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) at the Nairobi National Park Animal Orphanage.

And next is a 12-month old female lesser kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis) at the same place. They're basically the same height, and it'll be interesting to see how the greater kudu grows over the next few months. I'm in the process of setting up a research collaboration with the veterinary staff there, to take regular measurements of these and other antelopes in their care.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Oliver Twist, Jr.

Well, Monday I got verbal permission to establish a research collaboration with the staff at the Nairobi National Park Animal Orphanage. It's the same basic idea as my field work - get measurements from males and females at different stages of development in a handful of related species to piece together a picture of their patterns of growth - what's normal for a species, for a sex, for an age, etc. It has lots of highly practical applications, in addition to insights into evolution. In the field I have to do it with photographs, looking at body proportions but no absolute measurements. By working with captive animals though, I can get both kinds of measurements from known-age individuals over the course of their growth, and get much better information with more details. My target species are notoriously shy, and it's very difficult to view babies in the field. As it turns out, the Orphanage has an 8 month-old greater kudu female who doesn't terribly object to being man-handled. This is like saying you have a cat that willingly takes baths. Huzzah!! Till Monday, the best photos I'd ever gotten of kudus were either blurry from them running away so fast, or had a tall bush between them and my camera. I talked with the head vet, and he was very supportive and interested in my project, and promised to push through my paperwork as fast as possible (which doesn't mean it'll be fast, just faster).

The above flower is a gratuitous pretty pic using my new lens (click for larger view), which I meant to post back in early February. The pic was taken at a distance of about 12-15 ft, using my Nikkor 70-200mm VR, and cropped to approximately 10% of its original size. This is my just-saw-an-antelope-at-100m-running-away lens :D. I'll have new animal pics next time, I promise.

Oh, Oliver Twist was the name of an orphaned buffalo I met at the Mt. Kenya Wildlife Conservancy's Animal Orphanage back in 2007. I think it's a better name for an orphaned spiral-horned antelope, know what I mean?