Sunday, January 17, 2010

Giraffes!

This is the fourth in a series of posts summarizing my experiences on our recent trip to Kenya to study East African Raptor Ecology. The first post was on African Fish Eagles and other wildlife at Lake Naivasha, Kenya. The second covered the Big Cats of Kenya. While not raptors, they were one of the many highlights of the trip. The third post was focused on the vultures of Maasai Mara National Park. Deviating again from the Raptor theme, here are the giraffes.

Giraffe. Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya.

One animal that I greatly enjoyed observing in Kenya was the giraffe. These animals are so dorky they captivated my fascination. Its amazing that evolution could produce such a complex and non-logical beast as this, but it has clearly been successful, at least in this limited environment.

Giraffe. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

Giraffe. Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya.

Their odd way of walking with both legs on one side of the body swinging at the same time, makes them look constantly off balance. Their slow movements make them look overly vulnerable, yet I expect most predators would be confused on how to attack one.

We did observe a fair amount of giraffe love!

Giraffe Love. Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya.

Giraffe Love. Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya.

Giraffe Love. Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya.

We also watched a few pretty good fights. The fights were interesting as they played out in slow motion. We watched these two for about 20 minutes trying to determine what the fighting strategy actually is. It remains a mystery.

Giraffes fighting. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

Giraffes fighting. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

They first try to push each other using their hips. Then they swing their necks and try to hit the other with their ossicones (horns), usually in their belly area. The movement is so slow that it doesn't seem that there is any real impact. The aggressor often gets his head caught in the other giraffe's legs. This seems like a very vulnerable position. I couldn't figure out if anything was really being accomplished. After 20 minutes we moved on, but they continued. I couldn't tell if any advantage had actually been gained.

Giraffes fighting. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

Giraffes fighting. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

Giraffes fighting. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

One did occasionally lift the leg of the other animal with their head. It is possible this is a precursor to actually toppling the other animal, but we didn't see either of them ever get close to losing their balance.

Giraffes fighting. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

It was definitely something interesting to watch. We did note a male-female pair across the road from these two. It is possible that both of these males lost out!

2 comments:

April said...

Awesome! Those are the most amazing creatures. They're beautiful.

Bob Barnes said...

Thanks for posting your adventures and observations in the blog-world. I have subscribed and look forward to more wonderful entries. Thanks again. Nice work.