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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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).
I just liked the last photo.