Giraffes ‘not aggressive, just curious’

2014-09-29 00:00

BISLEY nature reserve’s giraffes are imposing, but not menacing.

One of them has even been nicknamed George by his admirers.

This was said by Pietermaritzburg cyclist Ursula Wyllie, who called The Witness in response to Friday’s article in which a group of 15 cyclists described being involved in a “stand-off” with a towering and “intimidating” giraffe that would not move off the road.

“When we cycle through the nature reserve we are in their [the giraffes’] space and we respect them. I cycle that route regularly because I just love to see them, as well as all the other animals in the reserve like wildebeest, duiker, kudu, and zebra,” she said.

“There are about eight resident giraffes in the reserve and the tallest and biggest is absolutely enormous. We know him as George,” she said.

She said the giraffes are not aggressive, but they are curious. Sometimes they stand in the road and the simple option for cyclists and other road users is to either wait for them to move off or turn back if they are not comfortable, she said.

Wyllie said she was concerned that reference made in last week’s article to an unproven allegation that a man was thought to have been killed by a giraffe in 2008, would “create an unnecessarily negative impression of the majestic animals”.

“They are wild animals and we should not lose sight of that, but it is really a privilege to share their environment with them.”

Jogger Janice Whitelaw also told The Witness she often comes across the giraffes while running through the reserve and finds them “quizzy”.

“They are really huge. You get a crick in your neck looking up at them,” she said.

She too said it was a joy to be able to observe the wildlife in the reserve.

On Friday a motorist driving through the reserve spotted a giraffe standing next to the road. “He wasn’t doing anything. Just watching the world go by,” he said.

Wyllie took a photograph of the giraffes, as well as zebra, while cyling through the reserve on Saturday.

“We went riding on Saturday and sure enough, there they were, in exactly the same place as always. We are incredibly blessed to have this on our doorstep.”

Very tall and very heavy

ACCORDING to the National Geographic website, giraffes are the tallest mammals on Earth, roaming the savannah in constant search of food like treetop acacia buds.

Their average life span in the wild is 25 years and they vary in size from four metres to six metres (tall). They can weigh up to 1 270 kg.

“A giraffe’s legs alone are taller than many humans—about six feet [1,8 metres].

“These long legs allow giraffes to run as fast as 35 miles [56 km] an hour over short distances and cruise comfortably at 10 miles [16 km] an hour over longer distances,” the website states.

Their tongue is 53 cm long to help them pluck leaves from branches.

The pattern on the coats of individual giraffes is never the same, although giraffes from the same area do sometimes appear similar.

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