I have always found giraffe as interesting yet harmless creatures. I cannot recall ever being completely besotted or fascinated by them but I think that if inter species friendships were possible; they would be my friends no doubt. To me they have always looked like the chilled, go with the flow creature in the animal kingdom; the way they move, they way the eat, the way the listen out for predators. My opinion of them as being strong and powerful animals only started to change when my guests and I nearly had one come crushing on us. If lions, and more precisely the Southern pride lionesses’ lead by the mighty Floppy ear were hot on your tail, you would run for your life with all the fierceness you possess. Luckily we lived to tell the tale and one of my guests even got the whole thing on video (which of course, got lost somewhere in the universe of my computer). Although we all survived the ordeal (humans AND wildlife) – and I was teased for months as being the only person ever to be charged by a giraffe – giraffes in general earned a little bit more respect in my books. There was an inner strength in that giraffe that I could only feel.
After this particular incident my relationship with giraffes went back to normal and it fell back to our normal routine…until a summer day showed me again that wildlife has infinite more strength than what we give them credit for.
It was a particularly chilly afternoon so there wasn’t too much around to see after we left the hyena den. The young ones had decided it was too cold to be outside of their termite mound. We bumbled along afterwards however we only found a few frozen impala here and there, the odd elephant munching away; but everyone was slowly being consumed by the game drive’s lullaby and falling asleep. A leopard was called in so we decided to make our way slowly into that area waiting for our turn to see the elusive spotted cat.
Before arriving to that particular area, Elvis raised and had and said to me in Shangaan: “lots of vultures there”. Although it was a cold day and vultures are doomed to be grounded in the absence of the hot currents of air they use to surf the skies, something felt out of place. There were too many of them, we decided to go off road and investigate. As we approached – hoping for the lion we hadn’t seen – we could only see a giraffe staring at something in the distance.
“If the giraffe is so close to the vultures, chances are there is nothing here” – I thought to myself.
A giraffe wouldn’t stand so close to a lion.
“Let’s see what else there is”
When finally we managed to get closer to the giraffe we witnessed a sight I had never seen before and it took a second to register in my mind.
The giraffe is female. There are lots of hyenas around.
Maybe they stole a kill from a leopard?
There is something on the ground.
No. freaking. way.
We had come across a battlefield where a clan of hyenas had managed to kill a giraffe calf, no older than a year. Its mother would not give up and kept defending her baby to the advances of all the hyenas. It was however a loosing battle as the calf was already dead. It was a heart-breakings sight as she fought the hyenas over and over again to no avail. Her strength and determination however also made it a humbling sight, as there is no instinct stronger than protecting your own, even when the battle has been lost. For that she had all my respect and I could not utter any words and the events that were unfolding in front of us.
(Warning: the below video is not for sensitive viewers)
Did you hear her GROWL?! If not, rewind. I didn’t know giraffes where capable of such sounds.
We eventually left them, all convinced that although it hadn’t been a happy sight, it had been a special one for it reminded us very strongly of the law of the bush, and the balance between life and death. The hyena clan that was so fiercely fighting for their meal, had cubs to go back to and feed. We had just spent part of our afternoon with the little ones at the den and while we felt devastated for the giraffe, there was a silent realization of how raw nature is.
The following morning we decided to go back and see how the events had unfolded during the evening. Younger hyenas had been fetched from the den, and the matriarch and her offspring were gorging themselves keeping lower ranking hyenas at bay. The mother giraffe was still around, and it seemed she was starting to understand that there was nothing to do, still she had trouble “letting go”. While we were there, an unexpected visitor came into scene once more changing the dynamics of the unfolding events. All humans were sitting still, not making a sound as not to give away his position, but also not wanting to hinder the chances of any of the young hyenas of being able to make a quick getaway should they need to.
The male lion appeared and quickly claimed his prize, sending hyenas and giraffes scattering all around. The dice had been thrown, and the male lion had claimed what was at stake.