|BLACK BEAUTY: Due to their popularity on hunting ranches, there are more blackbuck in Texas than in their native India. Over a hundred blackbuck live at Fossil Rim, just one reason this animal has been brought back from the verge of extinction. (PhotoDisc)|
African Wildlife in the Lone Star State
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Glen Rose, Texas
When the reticulated giraffe strode over to us, stuck his head in our lap, and let us pet his nose, it was love at first sight. We marveled at his fist-size brown eyes and foot-long purple tongue. He strutted behind our jeep, his lanky legs seeming to glide through the scrub brush as his long neck seesawed between the tree branches and the blue sky. Groups of addax, a type of Northern African antelope followed our jeep. We drove by herds of greater kudu as well as zebras, fallow deer, and blackbuck. We saw black rhinos enjoying their morning mud bath and drove by the cheetahs, who eyed us suspiciously.
On safari in Africa? No, we were on a nature trail in Glen Rose, Texas, less than two hours' drive from Fort Worth. Here, at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, a wildlife conservation and education center in north-central Texas, over 1,000 animals roam free across 1,500 acres. The facility, accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, houses 50 species, 14 of which are considered endangered. These include the magnificent black rhino, stealthy Mexican gray wolf, and colorful Attwater's prairie chicken, all species in severe danger in their wild habitats around the world.
The ranch's wooded hills and grasslands, reminiscent of the African savanna, are divided into several large, gated pastures. Families can drive their own car along the 9.5-mile path, sign on for a guided naturalist led jeep trip, or even ride between the enclosures on a guided mountain-bike tour.
To add to the safari experience, consider bedding down overnight in a deluxe platform tent, complete with private bath, at the Foothills Safari Camp. Safe behind a fence from the critters, we watched the sunset and fell asleep to the distant sound of brays and bellows. The double-occupancy rate for the Foothills Safari Camp, breakfast included, is $200. You can also opt for a little more comfort in a guestroom at the Lodge, though of course you'll miss some of that special nighttime ambience.
For more: 254-897-2960, www.fossilrim.com
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication