Tag Archives: giraffe

The Forgotten Ones

Giraffes becoming extinct? Yes.

The news comes as a surprise to many- after all, they’re ‘always around’, and on safari, not many usually stop for yet another giraffe that comes walking by. Which may be part of the reason why their plight has been overlooked and largely unnoticed. These beautiful creatures are in serious and rapid decline, with populations having fallen by 40% over the last 15 years due to habitat loss and poaching for their meat.

There are 9 subspecies of giraffe, two of which are classified as endangered by IUCN. The other 7 are classed as ‘of least concern’. Well, there’s a concern alright. Reportedly they still have this classification as nobody has bothered to conduct any proper monitoring and evaluation for some time. And until something is done, the population, which is sitting at 90k as we speak, will continue to plummet as sure as the sun sets every day.

Here’s to the giraffe- head always held high, elegant, and more now than ever, truly a limited edition.

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Giants of the plains

With long rough tongues, these guys can comfortably go through about 30kg of leaves a day, tearing leaves and buds off their stems, which is garnished with prickly thorns. While they eat a lot, they can go for weeks without water, rivalling the camel’s ability to tolerate periods of drought.

The tallest land animal on earth is not only large, but fast, and can run at speeds of up to 60kmh/37mph for short periods- handy when running away from their main predators, lion, and hyena.

These large, elegant beauties are also very quiet. I’ve never heard one speak, though I wish one that I had a close encounter with, who was hiding in the bushes while watching me, did. Unbeknownst to me, he had crept closer to assess the danger, and after his evaluation, this giant decided to bolt down the hill like there was no tomorrow- which is when I realised he was there- heavy hooves pounding on the dirt, missing me by only metres, and leaving dust in its trail. A few seconds later, a female followed suit and ran down the same route. While my heart felt like it was about to come out of my chest, I realised if I hadn’t stopped walking, I would have collided with this fast, approximately 1900kg heavyweight champ. Though they were panicky and in flight, I felt completely graced by their poise and elegance. They’re only about 3 feet shorter than the Tyrannosaurus Rex- and in that moment, I really did feel like a dinosaur had just scraped past me.

Our world is blessed with a wide diversity of creatures. Although giraffes don’t seem to command as much attention as others for some reason, I think they are one of the most beautiful creatures out there.

Ashen plains

Behind this giraffe and this idyllic scene is Olkaria, a massive geothermal power plant at Hell’s Gate National Park. Behind the escarpment, big plumes of white steam, like billowing cumulus clouds, rise from the horizon and blend in with the sky.

Geothermal production in Kenya is massive- accounting for 5% of the world’s output- and is on the rise. The country sits on a fault that has small rips in the earth, exposing 300C/572F heat through its thin crust along the Rift Valley in the form of steam. The geothermal plants, owned and managed by KenGen, produce an abundance of cheap, clean electricity to power the burgeoning East African economy that is Kenya.

The Rift Valley is also where the majority of the pastoralist Maasai tribes live. One day, in an area along the Rift, a Maasai elder hands a document over to us about 100 pages thick in English. The air is hot, goats are bleating, and children mill about- just an ordinary day. He asks if we can help him to read it. After flicking through the first section, it’s government speak for: we want to build on your land to build a geothermal plant.

It’s never easy to balance the need to tap into clean energy sources while ensuring that people and wildlife are not displaced, livelihoods are not disrupted, and the sacred lands of the Maasai remain intact. The area around the plant looks otherworldly- barren, greyish white from all the sulphur, ash, and dust. While renewable energy is a sustainable way to power countries, it’s a fine balancing act to ensure that precious areas of wilderness also remain protected, for both humans and wildlife.