Monday, June 26, 2017

Smithsonian Mag - In celebration of the graceful mysterious giraffes--and the heroes working on their recovery --tma

Mystery on the Savanna

By Alex Shoumatoff
Photos: Melissa Groo

According to Fennessy, the main reason the field isn’t more crowded is that giraffes aren’t as interesting to study as other large African animals. A scientist like Jane Goodall could spend years living among the chimpanzees, mimicking their behavior and learning their intricate social networks. Giraffes are much more enigmatic. They glide placidly, their heads high above all the other creatures. They wander in and out of different herds, seemingly unattached. Most of their communication likely takes place at frequencies too low for the human ear to hear. “People love giraffes, let’s be honest,” Fennessy says. “But they haven’t been anthropomorphized in the same way as other animals. They’re not like elephants, with an issue like ivory getting everyone’s attention. They aren’t cunning predators. They aren’t hairy with big teeth. As a result, people tend to think of them as just another antelope-type thing that lions like to eat.”
In 1998, there were an estimated 140,000 giraffes scattered throughout Africa. The International Union for Conservation of Nature now lists the population as 97,562 and recently updated the giraffe’s status from “Least Concern” to “Vulnerable.” ...