Readers’ wildlife photos

September 20, 2015 • 7:20 am

I’m off to Poland/Sweden/Atlanta tomorrow, and will need animal/plant/landscape photos for a while, though I’m taking my backlog with me. But the tank is only about half full, so do send your good photos.

Today, reader Bob Lundgren from Minnesota furnishes us with some photos from his latest trip to Africa; his notes are indented. Before we get to them, let me remind readers that there’s only one species of giraffe (Giraffa cameleopardis, named after its resemblance to a camel, but with spots like a leopard), and the species is fragmented into morphologically distinct populations. These are named as nine subspecies, though systematists differ a bit on this division.

Here’s the range map showing the subspecies from Wikipedia, which has a nice article on the beasts. Be sure to read the short section on “internal systems,” which describes the changes in anatomy that have evolved to accommodate the long neck, including the famous recurrent laryngeal nerve.

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Common names for the subspecies are, in order from the key, Rothschild’s giraffe, West African giraffe, Angolan giraffe, Nubian giraffe, Kordofan giraffe, Rhodesian giraffe, Masai giraffe, Reticulated giraffe, South African giraffe. Back to Bob:

The first photo is a pair of Rothschild’s Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) taken in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. We were in Tanzania in January during what is called the “short rain season” which precedes the “long rains” that typically occur in April and May. You can see how green everything is. Because of the abundance of water and the lushness of vegetation, the animal populations were spread throughout the park rather than concentrated at water sources as they would be during the dry season in August and September.

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The Rothschild”s Giraffe is a sub-species of the Masai Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), seen in the second photo. You can see that the markings in the Masai Giraffe are more irregular and browner than those of the Rothschild. The Masai Giraffe is also taller than the Rothschild. I called being impressed by its stature. The Masai Giraffe was photographed in Lake Manyara National Park. (I do have to say that I’m not a biologist and not by any means an expert regarding subtleties of species identification. I’m relying quite a bit on my “Wildlife of East Africa” guidebook for this comparison. We didn’t realize while we were in Tanzania that we were looking at two different giraffes. It was only after getting home and sorting through our photos that we noticed the difference.)
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This photo is of a youngster stooping to drink at a waterhole in Serengeti National Park. it shows pretty clearly the drinking position giraffes have to get into because of their height. This is when giraffes are most vulnerable to attacks from predators.
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The fourth photo is a close-up of a giraffe munching the top of an acacia tree. It has nice eyelashes. There isn’t much zoom in this photo. We found the giraffes to be generally unaffected by our presence and while park rules required us to keep a distance most animals tended to flaunt the rules and would get quite near on their own. One evening at our tented camp in the Serengeti while sitting near the communal campfire (bush TV), two grazing giraffes came through the camp. They were very intent on grazing and one of them wandered very close to the chair my wife was sitting in. We of course froze so as not to disturb it. The giraffe got interested in munching on a bush about six feet from her and went at it quite noisily before noticing us, leaping back and galloping off to join its friend.
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The fifth photo shows a group of giraffes and zebras in the Ngorogoro Conservation Area. During January and early February, the great wildebeest migration is in this area (generally the southern Serengeti). Zebras and to some extent giraffes follow the migration and indeed, as we crested the ridge just beyond the giraffes, the vast herds of wildebeest were spread before us (subject of an earlier series of photos).

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I just liked the last photo.
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18 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

    1. Yes, I was just thinking when grade school kids learn about animals they never hear about subspecies. I think they would be delighted to know of these variations on a theme.

      1. Actually, that “anonymous” above was me. Strange things happen when responding on a phone from the Minnesota North Woods.

  1. When did the recurrent laryngeal nerve become recognized for its significance as an illustration of constraints in evolution? I don’t recall it being mentioned in Origin.

  2. This is wonderful, and once again it awakens in me the desire to do one of these safaris in Africa.
    My question is what size of telephoto lens would do the trick? I can get one that goes to 300mm without great trouble, but do I need a bigger one?

    1. Mark, my wife and I are not sophisticated photographers. All of the photos in this and previous posts of our Tanzania trip were taken with what are basically point and shoot cameras. Mine is an older Olympus 24x zoom. My wife’s is a Sony 30x zoom. We like to travel light and my wife bought her camera specifically for the trip with the help of a photographer friend. Her camera was by far better, particularly when it came to getting shots of birds and elusively distant leopards. The biggest assist for us in getting good pics was the use of a bean bag to steady the camera on the safari vehicle. A tripod or monopod would have been of little use.
      If you want I can get you more specifecs about my wife’s camera. I do have to say we saw a lot of safari vehicles with lots of very long lenses pointing out of them. They had bean bags, too.

      1. Thanks! A 300mm will do it. I am mainly into macrophotography, but I would make exceptions for a trip of a lifetime.

        1. Sony is doing some really interesting things. They even have a point & shoot that does RAW. They have a full frame mirrorless as well (which I sometimes think about getting) and they have interesting cameras like the QX-1 (uses the NEX lenses with your iPhone or Android) which I use for more static shots (like a trip to Ottawa) because the camera is slow.

          These days, you can get great images in a small package. I often take my Sony cameras with me instead of my Canon 5D MKIII; I leave the 300mm prime lens on my Canon and use it almost exclusively for photography where I’m not carrying it. Although, I was playing with my wide angle prime and my Canon the other night & loved the results (bought that lens to take some night sky pictures).

  3. There is mention in the Wikipedia article that some of the subspecies might count as species due to a lack of gene flow.

    1. Looking at the map, lack of gene flow surely just reflects the fact that the giraffe is now confined to localised patches of what must once have been a continuous, or near-continuous range across the savannahs and woodlands of Africa, all the way from the Cape to Lake Chad (if not further). It’s quite easy to identify distinct “subspecies” when all the intermediate forms that used to link them together have been wiped out.

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