It is easy to get distracted by the glamour of the lions and leopards, and the might of the big heavies; the elephant, rhino and buffalo, but if you take your time, look far up into the rocky outcrops, there is a little antelope which is just as interesting.
The Klipspringer, (which translates directly to rock jumper) is one of the smaller antelopes found in Africa. As the name suggests, it likes to …jump, on rocks… Usually, you see them as a silhouette, right at the top of one of the outcrops they call home, but every now and again, you catch one of them crossing open ground. While they are no slouch in a foot race, the predators out-match them on flat land. When they reach the safety of the rocks however, they are almost untouchable! In fact, their biggest threat would most likely be from the air, as the bigger eagles could quite easily snatch a young one.
They almost glide over the rocks, bounding away from any danger as if impervious to the sheer cliff faces they dance across. They are so specialized, that their feet have even evolved to deal with the challenges of rock face living. The hoof has become almost rubbery, as opposed to the hardened nail type hoof of its cousins, and the shape of the foot has changed, so they are effectively standing right on the tips of their toes (imagine a ballerina with four legs and you will start to get the idea)!
The other ace of spades up their sleeves is that they never need to physically drink water! This is a rather handy trick when living in the relentless heat of Africa. They obtain all the moisture they need from the leaves they eat – now if a little puddle of deliciously fresh water pooled up in one of the rocks they live on, then they are not above putting their heads down and slacking their thirst, but it doesn’t happen often.
Photographically, these chaps do pose a number of interesting challenges. To start, they are quite difficult to find, and then once you have found them, they are right on the top of the rocks, way out of reach of the cameras lenses! Technically, because of the distances involved, it is nearly impossible to create an image that works, and when you do get close enough, they usually run away! Luckily though, I have had a few opportunities, and I made the most of them!