Why has the gerenuk become such a focus for photographers?

One would not expect the gerenuk (Litocranius walleri) to be particularly frequently photographed. It lives in remote areas, its populations are sparse, it is shy, and its appearance is rather dull apart from a graceful lankiness.

In the sixties and seventies, few photos of the gerenuk were available. Pierre Dandelot and Helmut Diller, painting the species for the best field guidebooks of the seventies and eighties, erred considerably in their depictions, presumably because they had little material to examine. Yet today, photos on the Web are too many to keep track of. The gerenuk is surpassed only by the blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) and springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) as the most frequently-photographed gazelle.

In the case of blackbuck and springbok, popularity is understandable. For example, the gregarious and spectacular blackbuck still occurs widely in India, where a rising tech-savvy Middle Class, combining the Hindu regard for animals with that of the colonial English, has produced more wildlife photographers than expected in a poor country. The blackbuck is the most successful gazelle in zoos worldwide. It is kept on hunting ranches in the USA and Argentina, and there are more photos on the Web of the blackbuck in Texas alone there are of most species of gazelles in any situation.

Such explanations hardly apply to the gerenuk. Possibly this species has become commoner in the last few decades in a few parts of its range, such as the private game ranches of the Laikipia region of Kenya. But it remains much less likely to be encountered by photographers than the photogenic Thomson's gazelle, which is abundant in the Serengeti and to be seen right on the outskirts of Nairobi. So it surprises me that, when I recently scoured the Web for photos of Thomson's gazelle, I found a shortage of photos showing the aspects of colouration I was interested in.

One obvious appeal of the gerenuk is the 'anthropomorphism' of its extreme bipedal ability. People may love penguins and the gerenuk for similar reasons. But is this enough to explain the proliferation of photos of the gerenuk?

Posted by milewski milewski, April 06, 2021 09:50

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