The stunning face of a giraffe peered at me from a distance of less than 10 yards.
A herd of wildebeest passed by as I focused the lens of my camera on the giraffe’s stunningly beautiful face. It seemed a little suspect as I snapped numerous shots in soft morning light.
From behind the tall, gorgeous creature came its baby, a six-week old that stood about six feet tall and looked like a perfect miniature replica of mom. Baby giraffes have to be ready to move quickly due to the harsh nature of Africa’s predator-filled savanna’s.
This baby giraffe-named Imani (meaning Faith) however has no lions or hyenas to worry about but its mother Carlita took a minute before she could trust this photographer. It lives in the wildlife tour area at YO Ranch Headquarters in Mountain Home, TX and after a few minutes mother and baby were posing for pictures like pros.
The YO name is synonymous with exotic and native game hunting and in recent years new ownership from award-winning conservationists Byron and Sandra Sadler and their partners have turned it into a truly world-class sport hunting destination as well as a Hill Country hub of wildlife-based ecotourism.
“We are seeing a big increase in wildlife tourism here and love giving people a once-in-a-lifetime experience seeing incredible animals from around the world,” said Debbie Hagebusch, Director of Tourism at YO Ranch Headquarters.
Hagebusch who has worked with the giraffes on the ranch for more than a decade said baby “Imani” has excited everyone from the ranch workers to wildlife lovers on social media.
“She’s been a big hit and we have another baby giraffe due in early summer, from our girl Bella” she said.
Taking me, fellow wildlife photographer Gerald Burleigh and one of my Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center partners and close friend Josh Slone on a tour we experienced a living history of wildlife conservation.
Roaming the top of a hill was a small herd of Pere David’s deer, a creature once thought extinct but found being raised in a monastery in China. Since then, hunting ranches like YO Ranch Headquarters have raised these truly unique animals and now visitors here can see them up close.
I was stunned to see a group of Himalayn Tahr.
I have been deeply involved in covering exotics from the beginning of my career and I have never heard of any ranch in the United States having these mountain-dwelling game animals. Unfortunately they didn’t hang around long enough for me to get a photo.
A pair of blackbuck antelope battled in a large field as a young buck tried to establish dominance over the reigning boss buck.
In the past, blackbuck from this very property were sent to their native Pakistan to help reestablish after poaching nearly wiped them out there. Because this ranch did an incredible job of stewarding their blackbuck population, they were able to conserve them for future generations in America and beyond.
The wildlife tours here feature animals seen in few places from not only Asia and Africa but also Europe, Australia and South America on top of abundant native whitetail deer, Rio grand turkeys and myriad birds and small game.
The ride from the gate at Highway 41 into the ranch alone is an amazing experience. My personal highlight was seeing the most Texan of all animals-longhorn cattle including some beautiful babies.
With spring in the air animals are being born continually.We found a baby scimitar-horned oryx, another endangered species that calls this sprawling ranch home.
Just before we left out of the gates to conclude our time in the field, my buddy Josh signaled for us to stop.
“What is that little black critter?,” he asked.
“Oh my! It’s a baby yak! This is the first one ever born on the ranch,” Hagebusch said.
It was incredible to see so much life on one piece of property and whether you are a veteran wildlife journalist or someone who simply likes wildlife, you should check it out.
Chester Moore, Jr.