Giraffes are favourites among African wildlife. Part of the attraction is their sheer presence in the landscape, towering over every other critter and even over a lot of trees. The world’s tallest land animal, they can stretch to six metres high, and could peer into a second story window without effort.
These tall blondes are always photogenic – long, lanky, and graceful, sporting movie star eyelashes. Just having them in the scene is often enough for rewarding photography, but catching some kind of behaviour is even better. It’s usually easy to photograph them eating, since they spend much of their day chowing down on tasty leaves. It’s amazing how they can curl their long tongues around the sharp spines of acacia trees. Finding them drinking is always fun; they have to splay their front legs so their long necks can reach the ground.
The highlight, however, is when they’re “necking”. This is when two males go head to head, or rather neck to neck, to test their strength or establish dominance. They start off by stretching their necks beside the opponent, then take turns whacking each other with their heads. We came across these two guys in South Africa’s Hluhluewe-Imfolozi Game Reserve. It didn’t seem too serious at first, as they would whack each other a few times, stop for a rest, then go at it again. Later, the blows definitely became more forceful, with deliberate attempts to clout the opponent in the soft under-belly. Eventually, these two came to some sort of truce. But sometimes these matches can get deadly serious, resulting in a fight to the death.