Giraffe

“Its apparent disproportions and colossal height had classed it with Unicorns, and Sphynxes, the Satyrs, and the Cynocephali, of the ancients; and had induced a belief that so singular a form belonged rather to the group of chimeras with which the regions of imagination are tenanted, than existed amongst the actual works of creation.” Captain W. Cornwallis Harris, 1840.

Big 5 Game viewing in and around the Jock Safari Lodge concession in the Kruger National Park is always exceptional, yet it’s not always rhino, lion, elephant, leopard or buffalo who steal the show. Research has shown that the giraffe is one of the most sought-after animals for photographic safari goers.

The sub-species found in the Kruger National Park is called the Cape or South African Giraffe. At a height of up to 5.5m, giraffe [Giraffa camelopardalis] is the tallest animal in the world. Males can weigh in at 1200 kilograms and females at around 800 to 900 kilograms. At birth a calf weighs about 100 kilograms and they are weaned between six to eight months, but tragically only about half survive, the rest falling prey to lions, hyenas and leopards. Mothers typically defend their calves by using their powerful, long legs that can deliver a kick that could badly injure, or even kill a predator.

Giraffes use body language as their main medium of communication, including touching, licking and dominance, defensive and antagonistic displays and warnings, which come in the form of a change of posture. Out in the bush you may be fortunate to see a movement known as “necking”, where two giraffes, usually males, swing their necks towards one another in a very impressive fighting display. Using their long muscular necks, they strike at the opponent’s body and wrestle by twining their necks around each other until the loser is pushed off balance.

Some males do lead a solitary life for short periods of time, but giraffes are usually found in small herds, having inspired intriguing collective nouns such as a kaleidoscope, journey, or a tower of giraffes. Whatever you prefer to call it, seeing a herd of giraffe stride across the landscape surely rates as the quintessential safari sighting.

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