Photographer's Note

Recently we visited Etosha with our son, his partner and her son. On our first evenings game drive we were enchanted by the sight of giraffe drinking at the pan's edge under a pretty sky. I took several shots and as I was undecided about which to post I have added another as a WS. You can decide which you like best.

Giraffes look quite stately as they feed but when lowering themselves to drink they look clumsy and vulnerable.

These long necked browsers are able to exploit a feeding niche that is only shared by elephants. Their height enables them to reach food, which no antelope can get at. They feed mainly on the Acacia trees.
Being a very selective feeder and only choosing the most nutritious leaves they pull leaves and small twigs into their mouths with lips and tongue spitting out thorns and tough twigs.

This animals has a very efficient digestive system, which means they can survive on less than half the browse you would expect of an animal of this size.
The presence of thorns on acacia trees slows down the feeding process, which means they have to spend at least 11, and up to 20, hours a day feeding. In areas where the soil is poor in calcium they obtain these minerals by chewing bones.

To reach water the giraffe has to splay its front legs and bend its knees before bending its neck to get its head down to ground level. A giraffe in this position is very vulnerable. It will always look around carefully and make sure it has a firm footing before bending.

When they raise and lower their heads the brain is protected by a special system of elastic blood vessels in the neck. This system is effective in getting blood and oxygen to their heads, as well as to prevent blackouts when they lower their heads. They have enormous hearts, which weigh close to 25 pounds and large lungs to effectively circulate air through the 6 to 8 feet long windpipe.

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Additional Photos by Rosemary Walden (SnapRJW) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2818 W: 85 N: 6957] (31629)
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