The normally majestic looking giraffe appears quiet out of ordinary when it requires a drink. Giraffe can go long periods of time without drinking, which is probably a good thing because it is so awkward for them to bend over. Physiologically, giraffe have unique anatomical differences in their blood vessels to allow them to lower their heads from a height of approximately 15 feet above ground to below ground level without fainting either when drinking or when they quickly raise their heads back up to normal position. Giraffe also have exceptionally long, dark tongues (up to 17 inches) that are incredibly tough. Both males and females have horns covered in skin. When the males fight for dominance or a mate they stand parallel with each other, swing their head and necks outward and down until they collide together around chest high. In this photo the bird in flight is an oxpecker that couldn’t hold on when the giraffe lowered it’s head. It quickly flew back onto the giraffe’s neck and a few minutes later was inside the giraffe’s ear picking out insects.
These giraffe all lined near the watering hole at the Ol Pejeta tented camp. The adult male was keeping the three females close to him as a younger male had also made his way to the watering hole and was interested in the females, but it wasn’t reciprocated. Their are three species of giraffe in Kenya, with the other two being the Maasai and the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe which is pretty much isolated to Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. It is estimated that giraffes sleep about 45 minutes a day and when a giraffe is born it falls about six feet to the ground!
This photo was just a matter of patience and timing. These two female reticulated giraffe had just finished drinking at the watering hole and were surveying the landscape. Everything from the mud on their feet to the position of their bodies matched up and made for an interesting photo.
One of my favorite photos from the trip. This female spotted hyena and several others were observed during a night game drive at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy near Mount Kenya. She was initially laying down, but as we approached she slowly got up and walked past us on her way to what turned out to be a den site with many other adult hyenas and pups running around (photos to come in subsequent posts). The menacing shadow of the hyena makes this photo stand out to me and captures the perception of the hyena being a sinister night time predator.