Sunday, January 24, 2010

The "Other" Mammals

This is the tenth in a series of posts summarizing my experiences on our recent trip to Kenya to study East African Raptor Ecology. The previous posts:
Post 1: East African Raptor Ecology
Post 2: The Big Cats!
Post 3: The Vultures of Maasai Mara
Post 4: Giraffes!
Post 5: More Raptors of Kenya: Chanting-goshawks and Buzzards
Post 6: The Vulures of Maasai Mara Revisited
Post 7: The large mammals of Kenya
Post 8: Eagles, Eagles, and more Eagles.
Post 9: Kingfishers, Rollers, and Bee-eaters

The primary purpose of our trip to Kenya was to focus on the raptors and birds. As I have reported earlier, the diversity of raptors and other birds was absolutely astounding. This is not to diminish the diversity of other animals as well. I have reported about the four species of cats, hippos, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, a buffalo. Here I will highlight many of the other mid-sized mammals that we saw on our trip. I am sure that there are many other species hidden away in my photo archive and in my brain that didn't make it into this post.

The Primates

Upon arrival at Lake Naivasha, the first wildlife we saw was the Vervet Monkey. These guys were not at all bothered by our presence. In fact, we had to make sure that we kept our distance.

Vervet Monkey. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

There was one aspect of the Vervet Monkey that I didn't catch in any of my photos. They have bright turquoise blue colored balls! We had watched them for some time before one of the males displayed his goods. It was quite shocking at first glimpse.

A less active monkey, at least in my observations, is the Colobus Monkey. We also observed them in smaller groups, one to two, instead of large groups (10-15) that we saw of the Vervet.

Colobus Monkey. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

The third primate we observed was the Babboon. We would see lots of Babboons, most every place we went. They too were uninhibited by our presence. We had been warned to give them a good amount of distance as they can be quite aggressive.

Babboons. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

At Lake Naivasha our camp collects water run off from the roof of the cabins. This is the water, instead of lake water, that is purified for drinking purposes. On our last morning there was watched as a Babboon crawled in and dipped its butt in the water tank. When travling in Africa, you just can't worry about these things... We kept telling ourselves that our parasite load in the United States is far to low. We were there to make up for that.

The Ungulates

We would see zebra most every place we would go. One night at Lake Naivasha, I awoke to the sound of chomping. I slowly pull the curtain back to see a zebra just outside the window. We would see them daily in our camp.

Burchell's Zebra. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

The warthogs were a popular attraction within our vehicle. Whenever we would see one, it would be proclaimed how cute it was. Clearly a different definition of cuteness than I am used to. Anyway, they were pretty cool to watch. Many had young warthogs running around. Lynelle, one of my classmates, stated that they are so ugly that they cross over the boundary to the other end of the scale, thus they can be called cute.

Warthog. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

I understand the Wildebeest migration is an impressive time to be in Maasai Mara. That occurs later in the year, but we still saw many individuals.

Wildebeest. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

My favorite of all of the antelope are the Topi. Their crisp, clean, multi-colored look is impressive. They often stand individually on a mound of dirt as if proclaiming to be king of their mound.

Topi. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

Not nearly as striking or as beautiful as the Topi is the Common Eland. They do have interesting black squares on thh back of their knees which improves their appearance when standing. I can't tell if that is moss or dirt on his horns.

Common Eland. Nairobi National Park.

The Hartebeest gains some uniqueness points with their narrow horns, narrow face, narrow body, and narrow stance. Who knows, maybe they aren't so thin in richer times.

Hartebeest. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.>

There were tons of Impala. These were referred to as the 111's. If you look at their butt you see three black stripes - 111. I think it is interesting to look at the various predator avoidance strategies in the animal markings. Stripes on the butt is a popular method. The Eland's have the black square on their knees. I have to believe it is there for predator confusion. The Waterbuck (no photos) has a bull's-eye on its butt. I am not sure that is such a good strategy!

Impala. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

The gazelle's, or as we like to call them, "Cheetah Snacks" were abundant in most locations. Probably the result of fewer cheetahs. There were Thompson's (pictured) and Grant's. The Thompson's have the side stripe, the Grants have the pants (white from their legs comes up over their butt).

Thompson's Gazelles. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

Baby Thompson's Gazelle. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

The Carnivores.

Now that you have seen all of the prey species, here are the predators. The Black-backed Jackal fills a similar ecological role to the North American Coyote. They appeared to be about the same size and have similar mannerisms.

Black-backed Jackal. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

The Spotted Hyena provided a good show on a number of occasions. One morning in Maasai Mara, four Spotted Hyenas were following a Cape Buffalo with a newborn calf. The buffalo was walking quickly to catch up with the herd. The Hyensa were hoping they wouldn't. As the distance closed, the buffalo did rally the herd for protection so the Hyenas stayed hungry. In another location we observed a hyena feeding on a cow carcass. The cow was obviously lost as they are not supposed to be within the park boundaries. While feeding the hyena was very leary and kept a close eye out for any incoming enemies.

Spotted Hyena. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

There are probably a few mammal photos I missed, but that's a good run down. I am nearing the end of the "Kenya" series of blog post. Probably only one or two more.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Kingfishers, Rollers, and Bee-eaters

This is the ninth in a series of posts summarizing my experiences on our recent trip to Kenya to study East African Raptor Ecology. The previous posts:
Post 1: East African Raptor Ecology
Post 2: The Big Cats!
Post 3: The Vultures of Maasai Mara
Post 4: Giraffes!
Post 5: More Raptors of Kenya: Chanting-goshawks and Buzzards
Post 6: The Vulures of Maasai Mara Revisited
Post 7: The large mammals of Kenya
Post 8: Eagles, Eagles, and more Eagles.

One of my favorite birds from Idaho is the Belted Kingfisher. Those who have followed this blog for some time, might know this as I have posted a number of Kingfisher photos over the years. Kingfishers were one of the birds I really wanted to see in Kenya, and I was not disappointed.

Highest on the Kingfisher want list was the Giant Kingfisher, followed by the Pied Kingfisher. We saw both!

Giant Kingfisher. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

Pied Kingfisher. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

But nothing can compare to the beauty of the Malachite Kingfisher. We were disappointed to learn that this species is no longer seen at Lake Naivasha. What a loss. This is likely the result of the native fish population being replaced by larger species. The native fish is now extinct (at least in Lake Naivasha). We did, however, find one in the Maasai Mara. He/She was very cooperative.

Malachite Kingfisher. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

While in Maasai Mara, we stayed at the Ilkeliani Tent Camp. Ilkeliani means young warrior in Swahili. It's an excellent place. Great staff, great food, excellent accommodations, and Kingfishers! Within the compound we saw an African Pygmy Kingfisher, a Woodland Kingfisher, and a Grey-headed Kingfisher. The Pygmy appeared to be delivering food to a nest!

A number of the African kingfishers don't even eat fish. It was a surprise to find some of them in habitat far from water. The Woodland, Grey-headed, and Striped for example prefer dry wooded areas. They eat insects, small reptiles, some fish, and even small birds! We found the Striped Kingfisher in Nairobi National Park.

Striped Kingfisher. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

Rollers and Hoopoes

Another great aspect of traveling far from home is that you not only see new species, but also whole new families. Rollers, Hoopoes, and Wood-hoopoes would be three new families for me. While they are all in the same order as Kingfishers (Coraciiformes), they are not believed to be that closely related. Of all of the Rollers, the Lilac-breasted is the most beautiful.

Lilac-breasted Roller. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

I should probably do a post on the funky bird category. The Hoopoe would definitely fit into that. I couldn't ever capture a photo with his crest raised.

Hoopoe. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

There are just too many great birds in Kenya. Another one of my "favorites" is the Bee-eater family. How could you not love these guys?

Little Bee-eaters. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

White-fronted Bee-eaters. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

Back to mammals for the next post.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Eagle, Eagles, and more Eagles!

This is the eighth in a series of posts summarizing my experiences on our recent trip to Kenya to study East African Raptor Ecology. The previous posts:
Post 1: East African Raptor Ecology
Post 2: The Big Cats!
Post 3: The Vultures of Maasai Mara
Post 4: Giraffes!
Post 5: More Raptors of Kenya: Chanting-goshawks and Buzzards
Post 6: The Vulures of Maasai Mara Revisited
Post 7: The large mammals of Kenya

African Fish Eagle. Lake Naivasha, Kenya.

If there is one thing about Kenya that is most striking for a birder, its the sheer number of unique species. I totaled over 220 unique species in a week. The more focused/unstable/insane (pick your favorite adjective) birders among us totaled over 275 species in one week! The second most striking observation for me was the number and diversity of Eagles. Coming from an area with only two eagle species, it was impressive to see 9 different species in a week!

The most abundant eagle species we would see, outside of the African Fish Eagle at Lake Naivasha, was the Tawny Eagle. Another species which closely resembles the Tawny, but is not that closely related, is the Steppe Eagle. When perched, they are usually distinguished by how far back the yellow gape of the mouth extends. The gape extends to the middle of the eye on a Tawny and the back of the eye on a Steppe. Just to make it interesting, there is a subspecies of Tawny which is in between. The bird in the following photo received much discussion in the field as to whether it was a Tawny or a Steppe. I was clearly in the Steppe Eagle camp. Now looking at the picture, I am not so sure... leaning Tawny.

Tawny or Steppe?

My favorite of all the Eagles is the Long-crested Eagle. This bird has class.

Long-crested Eagle. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

For some reason this bird always looked dignified as its crest was blowing in the wind. My next favorite was the Black-chested Snake Eagle. This bird got a lot of attention in our vehicle as it was Heidi's study bird. It was also very cooperative at providing photo opportunities. I like it's big square head.

Black-chested Snake Eagle. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

Black-chested Snake Eagle. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

Black-chested Snake Eagle. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

And that it provided me one of the best flight photos I have ever captured! Look how impressive the emargination (pronounced narrowing) is on the primary feathers (end of the wings). Heidi wowed the crowd during her presentation on the Snake Eagle with a video of it regurgitating a snake for a chick. Actually, its mate pulled the snake out of its mouth to feed the chick. The chick then ate the snake whole! It was a very impressive video to watch. We didn't see any birds with a snake in the field, but we did see quite a few snake eagles.

Tawny Eagles in the "Leopard Tree". Maasai Mara, Kenya.

The "Leopard Tree" pictured above was our breakfast location in the Maasai Mara. On this day, there were no leopards in the tree, only Tawny Eagles.

The final eagle we searched for was the Martial Eagle. He eluded us until we arrived at Nairobi National Park.

Juvenile Martial Eagle. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

The juvenile and the nest are low in the tree. This juvenile has just fledged in the past month. Notice the city of Nairobi in the background. What a tremendous asset to have this national park so close to the largest city in the country.

Juvenile Martial Eagle. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

The eagle that I most wanted a photograph of was the Bateleur. We would see a number of these in flight, but it never worked out for a good photograph. They have a striking appearance of being solid black, with bright orange feet and cere. They are highlighted with high contrast brown and grey. Their signature feature is a very short tail, which looks like a mini skirt. Due to the short tail, they are somewhat unstable in flight. This easily distinguishes them from other eagle, even at great distances.

If that list of eagles isn't impressive enough, we also saw African Hawk-Eagles and Booted Eagles. Had we stayed another few days I am sure the list of eagle species would have grown.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The large mammals of Kenya

This is the seventh in a series of posts summarizing my experiences on our recent trip to Kenya to study East African Raptor Ecology. I am not running out of content yet! But with school starting, I might be running out of time... The previous posts:
Post 1: East African Raptor Ecology
Post 2: The Big Cats!
Post 3: The Vultures of Maasai Mara
Post 4: Giraffes!
Post 5: More Raptors of Kenya: Chanting-goshawks and Buzzards
Post 6: The Vulures of Maasai Mara Revisited

This post focuses on those organisms firmly bound to the planet - the large mammals. Giraffes, the largest ruminant on the planet and the tallest land based animal on the planet, was covered in an earlier post. I also covered hippos in the first post. The remaining large mammals we saw include the Elephant, the Rhinoceros, and the Cape Buffalo.

Stuck in the mud.

Before getting to the main attraction, its worth covering a little side adventure we experienced. Many of us spent an extra day in Kenya to explore Nairobi National Park. The plane fare was $700 cheaper to do so! With a new park we had the opportunities to see a number of new species. The vehicle arrangements for this extra day were considerably more "budget oriented" than the rest of the trip. For the previous 8 days we had excellent vehicles and knowledgeable drivers. On this extra day, we had lower end vans with drivers who did not really speak English, but we were all for saving a little money.

The night before the trip, it rained. It rained hard all night. It cleared up at breakfast and promised to be a great day. We made our way to a pizza joint at 8:30 in the morning to arrange for lunch. Hmm. They weren't open, but some employees inside let us in and promised to deliver pizza to the front gate of the park at noon. It is $40 per person to enter the park. If we left the park for lunch we would have to pay to get back in. We paid for the pizza in advance and hoped the food would arrive. We moved out on our way and into the park.

Did I mention that it had rained the night before? We were on a mission to see a Martial Eagle. The only one of the ten preassigned species we had not yet seen (each of ten students was assigned a raptor species to study and present to the class). The drivers assured us they knew where it was. We started heading down a particularly muddy section of road. Jay pointed to the mud and asked the driver if we could make it through. The driver nodded and said "yes, mud". Yes, it was mud, no we wouldn't make it.

Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

I thought to myself, "at least we only have one of the vehicles stuck." Looking behind, I would learn otherwise. The second driver drove right into the same hole. Pretty freakin' amazing!

Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

We worked to get the vans out and ultimately was able to free one of them. After much broken negotiation with the drivers and on the phone with their boss, we all piled into one van to return to the gate. They would be sending a couple of 4 wheel drive vans. After a short wait, the pizza arrived. It was starting to look like a better day. A while later, our new vehicles were there and we proceeded back into the park!

Elephants

On our last evening in Maasai Mara we found a group of elephants. These large lumbering creatures were something to watch. I've seen them before in captivity, but it is a very different experience to see them in the wild! One female in the group was very upset.

Female Elephant. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

She was trumpeting and crashing through brush and small trees. It was awe inspiring to watch her size and power as she ripped apart bush after bush. It was very unsettling. We are not sure exactly what was going on, but our driver believed it was the result of a large male nearby. Apparently a male can kill other juvenile elephants to push their mother into estrus. Not sure if that was what was going on or not.

Male Elephant. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

Cape Buffalo

The Cape Buffalo also have a dominating presence. Similar to North American Bison, they seem to have a intimidating look to them. This particular herd had both Red-billed Oxpeckers and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers flying and roosting among them. The Yellow-billed has both yellow and red on its bill, the red-billed has a solid red bill with a yellow wattle around the eye.

Cape Buffalo with Yellow-billed Oxpeckers. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

Rhinos!

In Maasai Mara we got one view of a rhino from about a mile away. Nairobi National Park provided much more intimate encounters.

Suspected Black Rhino. Nairobi National Park.

We believe we saw both black and white rhinos in the park. You have to look at their mouth shape, but I didn't catch that in the photos. The black rhinos are smaller, which is consistent with these photos. Our driver also believed these to be black rhinos. The black rhinos are critically endangered with only 4,000 individuals believed to be in existence. Evolutionary biologists believe the minimum sustainable population of any organism, with free random breeding is near 500 individuals. Below this number genetic bottlenecks and thus inbreeding occurs. When considering habitat fragmentation and other threats, 4,000 is pretty close to the minimum population for viable preservation. This assumes reasonable connection between individuals. They are amazing creatures to watch. Similar to the giraffe, they seem like an odd product of evolution, but apparently it works.

The park would also present a White Rhino adorned with oxpeckers. White Rhinos can be more than twice the size of blacks, weighing over 7,000 pounds!

White Rhinoceros. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

The White Rhino is considered "Near Threatened" with an estimated 17,000 individuals in the wild.

The next post will be on the Eagles.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Vulures of Maasai Mara Revisited

This is the sixth in a series of posts summarizing my experiences on our recent trip to Kenya to study East African Raptor Ecology. The previous posts:
Post 1: East African Raptor Ecology
Post 2: The Big Cats!
Post 3: The Vultures of Maasai Mara
Post 4: Giraffes!
Post 5: More Raptors of Kenya: Chanting-goshawks and Buzzards

Before jumping into the avian fauna discussion of the day, I thought I was explain a bit about the trip. The East African Raptor Ecology class was taught by Dr. Bechard at Boise State University and Dr. Virani of The Peregrine Fund. The trip was organized on the school end by the international programs office at BSU. All logistics within Kenya were organized by Predatours (http://predatours.internetkenya.com/). They are a tour group for individuals and groups focused on education and science. They took excellent care of us and put together top notch, yet affordable package. If considering travel to Kenya, you should check them out.

The course consisted of 8 days in country, at two locations - Lake Naivasha and Maasai Mara. A number of us stayed an extra day and visited Nairobi National Park. The group consisted of ten students (8 undergraduate and 2 graduate), two extras (Karyn got to go as a non-student!), Dr Bechard and Dr. Virani. The days were split between field trips, performing road and boat surveys, and lectures. The lectures included research presentations by Dr. Virani, student presentations, and a number of local guest speakers. It was a well rounded presentation of the raptors or Kenya and the challenges they face for survival. As I mentioned in my first post. This was a perspective changing trip that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

In sorting through my 3100+ photos, I discovered my best vulture photos of the trip. I missed them when creating the vulture post a few days ago.

Lappet-faced Vulture kicking some Rüppell's Griffon Vulture butt! Maasai Mara, Kenya.

In this carcass shot you see a large Lappet-faced Vulture fly in to chase the juvenile Rüppell's Griffon Vulture away. The Rüppell's is a big bird, but is dwarfed by the presence of the Lappet-faced. The large stork is a Marabou Stork.

Carcass. Lappet-faced and Rüppell's Griffon Vultures with Marabou Stork.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More Raptors of Kenya: Chanting-goshawks and Buzzards

This is the fifth 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, the fourth post covered giraffes. In this post I will cover some more of the raptors we studied.

Dark Chanting-Goshawk. Masai Mara, Kenya.

As I mentioned in a previous post, each student in East African Raptor Ecology course was assigned an individual species to study and prepare a 30 minute presentation on. My species was the Dark Chanting-goshawk (Melierax metabates). This species, and the two others in this genus (Eastern Chanting-goshawk and Pale Chanting-goshawk) primarily occupy sub-Saharan Africa with a small population in Morocco and the Arabian Peninsula. We would see two Darks and two Easterns on our trip. The primary distinguishing factor between the two is the cere color - yellow for eastern and orange for the dark. Taxonomically this genus has been moved around quite a bit over the past 100 years. Based on the most recent published DNA analysis, it is believed that the Accipiters, the Harriers, and the Chanting-goshawks had a common ancestor. The Harriers and Accipiters being more closely related to each other than to the Chanting-goshawks. The Chanting-goshawks fulfill a similar ecological role to the Harris Hawks of the US Southwest/Mexico. They hunt both solitarily and in groups, similar to Harris Hawks. The Pale Chanting-goshawk has been documented to form Polyandrous Trios in prey rich environments. This is also a trait in common with the Harris Hawk. A Polyandrous Trio consists of an alpha male, beta male, and a single female. The alpha male usually gets 2/3 of the copulations. Apparently 1/3 is just enough to keep the beta male interested and contributing. In contrast to a monogamous pair, the trio is able to raise multiple broods per year. If the two males are related, the inclusive fitness is greatly enhanced. If they are not related, fitness matches monogamous pairs. They eat rodents, reptiles, birds, and insects. Lizards are the dominant food source.

A closely related species, in a genus of its own, is the Gabar Goshawk (Micronisus gabar). This species is sometimes considered in the Melierax genus with the Chanting-goshawks. It looks very similar, but is much smaller. It does however aggressively and successfully defend its territory against its large cousins.

Gabar Goshawk. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

Gabar Goshawk. Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

We watched this Gabar stare down a group of Long-tailed Fiscals. Once the Gabar flew, the place erupted as many Northern Pied Babblers converged on the bush where he was perched. He must have cleared them out earlier.

At Lake Naivasha we saw many Eurasian Marsh Harriers. Maasai Mara was dominated by Pallid and Montagu's Harriers. No great photos to speak of. Most of the Falcons also eluded my camera. There were numerous Lanner Falcons and Lesser Kestrels. Some Common Kestrels and Grey Kestrels. We are pretty sure we saw a Sooty Falcon, an Ovambo Sparrowhawk, and a Great Sparrowhawk. Not a bad week. The other vehicle saw two Amur Falcons, but we missed them. There were also African Goshawks, Black-shouldered Kites, and a couple of other unidentified accipiters.

The Buzzards. I still hear many people refer to vultures as buzzards. The fact is that buzzards are buteo hawks, similar to the North American Red-tailed Hawk. In the old world, buteos are generally called buzzards, in the new world they are called hawks.

The most common buzzard in Kenya was the Augur Buzzard (Buteo Augur).

Augur Buzzard. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

The Augur Buzzard has a red tail similar to the Red-tailed Hawk of North America. It is also common enough in Kenya, that if you see a buteo, its a safe bet that its an Augur. We came upon an all black buteo at one point. We frantically flipped through multiple field guides, eventually discovering it to be a melanistic Augur buzzard. I've had a similar experience with dark morph Red-tailed Hawks in the US. Melanistic individuals have an increased amount of pigmentation in their skin/feathers. It is the opposite of leucism and albinism, which occur because of a lack of melanin or other types of pigment.

Melanistic Augur Buzard. Maasai Mara, Kenya.

Our host in Kenya performed his PhD research on Augur Buzzards. We joked that he couldn't pass an Augur Buzzard without stopping to look. This is similar to Swainson's Hawks on our ornithology class field trips last spring. Our ornithology instructor studied Swainson's hawks for his PhD. Someday I will have my students look at every bird that I studied as well! It's all in fun. They are great birds and we appreciated looking at them.

Augur Buzzard, Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

Augur Buzzard, Nairobi National Park, Kenya.

The eagles will have to wait for another day...

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!