I was in the same boat as you when looking and due to an iminent trip to Kenya wanted a camera which could take pictures of animals at a distance.
I opted for the FZ8 due to price/weight/sd cards/zoom/picture quality and battery life (RAW was nice but not a deal breaker for me).
By no means perfectthe FZ8 ticked all of the boxes I needed and am very happy indeed with my purchase. I did find it hard to get information but there is some out there. I have also posted a load of pictures on the Panasonic forum on here so if you want a novice view check it out.
I will be buying an add-on zoom lens as well though as I'd like to get even closer to the subjects. An SLR would need to have a massive lens to compete with the 700mm or so this would give you.
With the regards why no xD here's why:
Expensive/small size/slow/SD in the popular standard hence widely supported.
I bought a 4gb 150x SD Card including delivery for £12.99 about $23 bargain from ebay !!!!