Photograph of the week: Social distancing in the giraffe world
While on a safari in northern Tanzania, this group of giraffes (called a “tower”) was observed walking around the plains of Ndutu. The Ndutu region is part of the northern section of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and extends to the unfenced southern part of Serengeti National Park, a meeting point between these two incredible wilderness areas. This section of the park is made up of rolling meadows dotted with alkaline lakes that attract flocks of flamingos, as well as acacia forests. A big draw for the Ndutu region is to see the complete cycle of the Great Migration, from the return of the herds to pasture in December, to calving which takes place in January and February. The region is famous for its shortgrass plains which grow grass particularly rich in nutrients and which support migrating animals while they have their babies. You can also go off-roading in Ndutu, which makes safaris even more exciting!
It is advisable to leave early to look for migration and predators that accompany the herds, as this is when they are most active, like most other animals as well. Since they are not very difficult to find, this group of giraffes (called the tower), slowly crossing a swampy area, immediately stood out. With their long, swaying necks, distinctive patterns on their fur coats, and endless slender legs, giraffes are very strange creatures when you really think about it.
Giraffes are the largest mammals in the world. Their legs alone are taller than many humans – around six feet! A giraffe’s neck is too short to reach the ground, so it has to awkwardly extend its front legs or kneel to reach the ground to drink water. This makes them very vulnerable to predation, so you must be lucky to see them do this. They spend most of their life standing – they sleep or even give birth standing up, but sometimes you also find them lying on the ground (only if they are super relaxed and know they are not predators!). A giraffe calf can get up and walk around an hour after birth, and within a week it begins to sample vegetation. Giraffes only need 5 to 30 minutes of sleep in a 24 hour period! They often do this with quick naps that only last a minute or two at a time! Their spots look a lot like human fingerprints – no individual giraffe has the exact same pattern.
The giraffe is, in fact, the national animal of Tanzania, which has introduced strict laws to protect this endangered creature. Vast herds of Masai giraffes, which is the most common species of giraffe in East Africa, can be seen roaming the Serengeti. They are common in the Serengeti where they are sometimes found in groups of more than 40 people. The actual group in this photo had a lot more members than in this setting, and it’s fascinating to watch them interact with each other. At one point they started to gallop along the water sources which was a spectacular sight. After a while, they decided to stand in line in a queue – a perfect motif for that perfect shot! Definitely to remember, especially since giraffes are endangered in their natural habitat due to a number of factors including poaching and destruction of their ecosystems and habitats due to increased human activity. and habitat changes.
In the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, giraffes recently had their status inscribed on the “ vulnerable to extinction ” list – their numbers in Africa have dropped dramatically by around 40% in the past three decades only. Specifically, the Masai giraffe has lost half its numbers over the past 30 years, and only 32,000 remain in Tanzania and southern Kenya. It is almost impossible to imagine an Africa where these beautiful giant creatures do not roam the savannah. By displaying their beauty, we can all raise awareness and support conservation measures to minimize their risk of further extinction and instead ensure the future safety of the Masai giraffe.
Nature is awesome!
Thanks to Denise Brown of Sababu Safaris for permission to share the photo.
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