Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Giraffes (by Marilyn)

It was our last morning in South Africa and we opted to set out earlier than usual to get one last game drive in before starting our trip to Botswana at eleven o'clock. The air was still and "see your breath cold" and we quickly bundled up in the wool blankets provided for the ride as we settled into our favorite seats in the jeep, our much appreciated hot water bottles balanced on our laps. It was still dark, approaching grey, as the day impatiently nudged the night to give up its darkness, It was time and the red African sun lay waiting barely below the horizon. It was quiet. The birds were just beginning to think about starting their own routines and not much rustled in the grasses. The day began as expected with the sunrise as breathtaking as the previous night's sunset. I secretly wished time to stay still for just a few minutes to prolong the vibrant colors of the morning sun before it would rise too soon into a warming, but not as impressive bright spot in a cloudless blue sky. It was so perfect I hoped to savor the experience as long as possible.

All seemed quiet. The watering hole was unused and still no sign of activity in the bush until we came across a large herd of giraffes. Our road cut through the middle of the herd giving us a 360 degree view. We watch fascinated as each giraffe unfurled its lanky legs to rise awkwardly from its night time resting position to resume its lofty stance, head high in the trees enjoying the bird's eye view of the savannah.

Just waking up. A slow amble. Heading towards the acacia trees to begin the day long browsing. A giraffe needs very little sleep, as little as twenty minutes to two hours a night and needs to spend all day nibbling in order to eat the seventy pounds of leaves needed to sustain it. Because a giraffe will chew its food, swallow for processing, regurgitate the semi digested cud, chew and repeat the process several times for each mouthful so that every bit of moisture and nutrition is digested. The mouth of the giraffe is very tough to protect it from the sharp thorns of its favorite food, the acacia tree, and its eighteen to twenty inch tongue is black to protect from sunburn.
The acacia tree has a built in defense system to prevent over browsing. If too many leaves are removed from the tree, extra tanin is produced making the leaves bitter. The giraffes will move on to other trees until the leaves have regrown and the tannin levels are back to normal.

The most gentle looking face on the savannah. Hard to remember its kick can break the skull or back of a full grown male lion.

Other sightings of the morning in the following slide show. We would be sleeping in Botswana that night!

1 comment:

Donna K said...

Great slide show...amazing wildlife.