This is MY park: Two giraffes yoga it out in Vic Falls park
A rare sighting of two giraffes engaged in what looked very much like a yoga session in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park has scientists baffled.
HARARE - A rare sighting of two giraffes engaged in what looked very much like a yoga session in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park has scientists baffled.
The scene was videoed by researchers from the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT). It was compared by one reader on Facebook to a Hindu wedding ceremony where the bride and groom circle a fire.
But these two animals weren’t engaged in nuptials. Turns out they were engaged in a balletic struggle for dominance.
“This was a rather bizarre sighting and like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” said Angela Ferguson, Conservation Research Manager at ALERT Zimbabwe.
WATCH: Dance for dominance
“Giraffes are not believed to be territorial animals. Instead, it’s likely that this is a dominance interaction given that it is a mature adult bull and a sub-adult bull,” she said.
But neither was the interaction a “full-blown fight for dominance”, she pointed out. That would involve the aggressive “necking” often associated with these animals, when two bulls slam their necks against each other repetitively.
At one point the younger giraffe lowers his neck at the feet of the older bull in an apparent sign of submission, said Ferguson. And when he then lifts the leg of the older bull up at an extremely awkward angle, it appears to be an “unintentional rather than strategic” move.
Using special recognition software that identifies individual giraffes by their unique coat patterns, ALERT has recorded 140 of the animals in the national park, which covers 57,000 hectares west of Victoria Falls.
With their populations decreasing in the wild, giraffes are listed as vulnerable on a Red List of threatened species kept by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“They are becoming of increasing conservation concern with populations declining across the continent,” said Ferguson.
She said in addition to monitoring the giraffe population, ALERT was studying their habitat use and behaviour patterns.
“Despite being such an iconic African mammal, giraffes are poorly understood,” she said.
The jousting giraffe bulls wasn’t the only unusual encounter the research team has had in recent days. A month ago ALERT posted a picture on its Facebook Page of one of these elegant animals eating the bones of a carcass.
The strange phenomenon is not unknown among herbivores. It even has a name: osteophagy.
“This behaviour occurs when (giraffes) need more phosphates and calcium in their diet,” ALERT said.
A giraffe feeding on a carcass in the Zambezi National Park. Picture: African Lion & Environmental Research Trust