“Bearded” Antelope Photo by Paola Torchio
Veteran wildlife photographer Paolo Torchio made a bizarre discovery while visiting Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve: a mysterious “bearded” antelope. While one expert suggests the animal might only be suffering from hypertrichosis, a condition once known as werewolf syndrome, Torchio’s experience is the only known encounter with such an animal.
Torchio has lived and worked in Kenya for the past two decades and is intimately familiar with the wildlife that occupies the 600-square-mile reserve. He initially thought the animal was a dog and “was wondering, what is this dog doing?” he said. “And when it came out from the grass, that was a surprise.”
The animal has all the markings of a Thomson’s gazelle. “I would say it’s a younger female, based on the body and the horn size,” says Lanny Brown, a zookeeper at the Phoenix Zoo in Arizona, and the man in charge of maintaining Thomson’s gazelle populations for all of North America. Except this “bearded” antelope is covered with a strange, thick coat of hair.
Torchio noted that the animal was not easily spooked by other gazelles and visa-versa. However, it was spooked by Torchio himself. After fifteen minutes of photographing the bizarre creature, it up and ran away from him. Torchio spent the next five days trying to track it down without any luck. Gazelles are one of the fastest animals on earth, running at speeds up to 55 and 60 mph. I
Experts are not quite sure what to make of the beast as Torchio’s photos are the only known example of its existence.