Giraffe in Botswana's Delta

This morning, on my last wildlife drive here at Mombo Trails, before I fly to another camp in a different area of Botswana, we come across all that remains of a dead giraffe: a sun bleached jaw-bone. The death most likely the result of a long chase, and fatal bite to the jugular.  Probably from a lion.  After the big cat pride had taken their fill, others – jackals, hyena, vultures – would have cleaned up the remains. 


To my eye there is nothing left. But one spotted hyena disagrees. She patiently whittles away at a slimy, saliva softened patch of bone.  “For much needed calcium,” Seko, my guide, says. Hyenas live in packs but she won’t announce this meal to her clan – too much effort for very little reward. We leave her be.


Spotted Hyena eating giraffe jaw bone.


A few minutes further along the dirt road we spot another dead giraffe. “Around  25 years of age,” according to Seko, “an old male.”


We stare at the fallen being. His stomach entrails are spilled outside of it’s cavity (possibly the work of one hyena) but otherwise the giraffe is intact.


Every day animals die here in the wild, but it’s rare to see a whole dead animal. Every animal is food to someone else, devoured quickly and completely, rarely leaving a trace.


This giraffe had died peacefully. For his entire life, and in his final weakened state of old age, he had beaten the odds. He had avoided being taken down by lions, fatally kicked by other male giraffes, or killed by bush meat poachers. Unusual for the African bush.



Instead he had laid down in this open circle of grass edged by shrubs, his long neck stretched against the earth and land he had called home for a quarter of a century, and taken his last breath.



Seko tells me he knows this giraffe. “This male was the first giraffe I learned to recognize when I started guiding in this area about eight years ago.” There’s a sadness in Seko’s voice. He has lost a friend.



I wonder who, besides Seko (and me), notice that this great giraffe being is gone? Did this guy have friends, family or loved ones?  Did any of them witness his passing three days earlier? 



Loneliness – for the giraffe, for myself – envelops me.  



Elephants continue to visit the bones of dead family members, ritualistically mingling among the remains as a part of their process of letting go of the deceased. Do giraffes have a similar ritual?


No matter, death is a solo act.



Seko’s friend had, I imagined, lived an elegant and wonderful life before dying with peace and dignity.



That’s the best we can hope for.



Later, I wonder if the hyena we had seen had yet realized that a few minutes walk from the jaw-bone lay a whole meal for the taking – an elegant gentle giant waiting to be reintegrated into the Botswana sand and earth from which he originated. 



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15 Replies to “Unusual Final Act For Lucky Giraffe”

  1. I so enjoy your newsletters. Thank you for taking the time to share your wilderness thoughts.

  2. Thank you for your comments Marianne, Laurie and Mary. It means a lot to me. Yes, the cycle of life. That is exactly what I felt when I was with that gentle giraffe being so I am glad you ‘got’ that from the story.

  3. It’s comforting to find that others also deeply feel the unique value of each and every life cycle on the planet. It grieves me that animals are simply raised for food and wealth, mindlessly consumed without having been truly seen or loved for exactly who they are as individual beings. They are treated as slaves, physically and emotionally. How can we possibly answer to this! Thank you for your loving, gentle account.

  4. Death is always sad to happen upon, but it’s also beautiful when you think about the renewal it’s providing in the natural landscape. 🙂 Having just watched one of my closest friends die in hospice with tubes coming out of him, wasted into a hollow living skeleton, a prisoner in his own body, the image of that elegant gentle giant waiting peacefully to be reintegrated into the earth from which he originated is something particularly wonderful to me right now … just the peace and dignity of it — it’s a gift, really. xx

  5. Dora and Shara, I just read both of your comments and was deeply touched. I am so happy to hear from readers and appreciate when my words have been felt, and needed for a particular struggle you are going through.
    I smile to think that now you also have been witness to the gentle giraffe giant’s life and death.

  6. How unusual to come across 2 dead giraffe so close to one another! I wonder what took place there for that to happen.
    What a blessing though that old man giraffe seemed to have died a natural death and not by poaching which is such a horrendous act.
    I’m also curious as to why old man giraffe was not eaten by a pack of hyenas or lions? I wonder if it’s because old man giraffe died a natural death and was not the result of a kill.
    Thanks for sharing your stories Lori, love hearing them.

  7. Hi Frannie, thanks so much for your comments and questions. The guide and I were just as perplexed as you are about why the giraffe had yet to be found and eaten after dying 3 days earlier. And i think it was only a coincidence that the 2 giraffe died near each other.

  8. I love the recycle concept of african wildlife living. It seems to be a perfect world with the predator/prey relationship of animals, until “man” steps in to screw it up! Why can’t people just leave animals alone?

  9. Dear Joan, Your question, why cant people leave animals alone, is the reason I started Saving Wild. If I knew the answer to that, our world would be a much happier, healthier place full of biodiversity and beauty all around. We have to keep holding on to the dream that we humans are capable of creating a loving relationship to the planet and all of its beings. ITs why I go to Africa so often and love taking people on safari, so they can see nature as close to how it should be as possible. Thanks so much for commenting.

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