Smithsonian Magazine – March 2017
“Mystery on the Savanna” by Alex Shoumatoff
Photographs by Melissa Groo
My two-almost-three-year-old granddaughter is fascinated with giraffes. She loves the zoo. I confess I would never visit a zoo without a stop to observe the giraffes. They seem almost other-worldly with the longest necks imaginable, funny ears, and facial expressions that say something even if I don’t know what it is?!
This month Smithsonian Magazine has an article addressing human understanding of this animal and their shrinking numbers. According to the author Alex Shoumatoff, giraffes are the least understood of the African megafauna. The status of the giraffe population is listed as vulnerable. Poaching is one threat. Why poach a giraffe? Some are convinced that eating giraffe brains and bone marrow can cure HIV/AIDS. Leg bones can be carved to look like ivory or used for soup. Tails are used for dowries among some groups. These ideas border on the bizarre. What is more understandable is giraffe loss of habitat due to road building, mining and oil drilling. People want their territory.
Fascinating photos accompany the Smithsonian article. Close-ups show the giraffe’s long eyelashes and unique beauty. Even the pattern of their spots is individual and unique, like a fingerprint. My favorite photo is one where two giraffes appear to be scratching each other’s necks by elongating and entwining their necks.
Fascinating facts from the magazine article. Long necks enable them to reach the highest leaves on the acacia trees. Rubbery tongues protect against injury. Thick saliva coats thorns they may swallow.
Let’s start a giraffe fan club. What do you think? Pick up a magazine or check their website. Informative reading.