The Serengeti: Ruminants

The most common animals we saw were the ruminants. In the antelope family, there were the elands, impalas, bucks, dik diks and gazelles. Most ubiquitous were the Thomson’s gazelles, who always seemed to be running away from something. I like how starkly they are coloured, with clear lines separating each colour. It was almost as if an anal primary school student wanted to show how well he could colour within the lines.

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But what I loved most about the Thomson’s gazelles was how their tails flicked from side to side. Check it out in the video below.

The bucks were somehow much harder to spot for first-time safari people like me. It didn’t help that they were also rather shy. This reedbuck was taken from pretty far away. Muba spotted it and had a hard time pointing it out to us without going in any closer.

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Waterbucks were similarly shy. They probably realised that they didn’t run very quickly and were better off keeping a safe distance than risk having any big animals like our land rover get in close. Sadly, this is the closest we ever got, we’ll probably have to go to a good zoo if we want to get any closer.

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At least the zebras aren’t shy, which was great for us. Muba was telling us about how zebras are the scavengers of the savannah and you’ll never see a skinny zebra because they eat pretty much every kind of plant out there. This makes their meat really acidic and they aren’t very good for eating at all. He then went on to say that zebras have orange “fahts”, it was very characteristic. I immediately started looking out for clouds of orange smoke coming out from the zebras’ behinds and was very disappointed not to spot anything at all, no matter how faint. One morning, I confided my disappointment at the lack of orange zebra clouds to DC and he fell about laughing because Muba had all along been talking about zebras having orange fats. Oh.

Never mind, here’s a cute photo of a zebra taking an enthusiastic dust bath. No, it’s not fallen down, it’s having a good roll on the ground to get the ticks off.

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And last in the ruminant spotlight is the cape buffalo. I can’t decide whether its stare is vacant or intense, there’s somehow a bit of both in it. I think it’s the bushy eyebrow effect that helps it look rather stern and serious, as of course do the centre-parting horns.

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Of course, cape buffalo look a heap less serious when licking their noses…

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… and when young, are positively cute. Check out this youngster below letting a red-billed oxpecker bird have a go at the parasites on its hide.

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