Monday, July 28, 2008

The Dead Giraffe

*Note: Text and all photos in all Kenya posts are by Shawn Billerman unless otherwise noted.

There was one part of our trip to Kenya that we kept coming back to, over and over. It wasn't anything that was living, but it used to be... it was a dead Giraffe (Giraffa reticulata). On our first game drive, we came upon the carcass in question. Our guides told us, on our fist day, that this particular had died 2 weeks earlier, after it had broken its leg in an altercation with another male Giraffe. Unfortunately, because the kill was already 2 weeks old, the vultures had come and gone, and presumably most of the big carnivores. Much of the meat that was left was either rotted and being consumed by maggots, or hardened into a kind of Giraffe jerky (yummy!). I know I wasn't expecting much from this kill, but I think Dustin and Irby knew things that we didn't.

Photo of the Giraffe on the first day (note the position of the head, or rather, that it still has one)

Photos of two very strange flies that were found on the Giraffe carcass. These flies, when distressed seemed to split the head apart, and expand this strange whitish blobby thing from between the eyes. It could then retract this blob and return to a normal state. (Photos by Eric Denemark)

On our first night drive, we passed by the Giraffe, and found a pack of Spotted Hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) around the carcass, picking what they could off of it. While watching, it was fun watching the social interactions between individuals. We could clearly identify the dominant female, as she harassed the others. After a couple of days, we found ourselves passing by the Giraffe early in the morning. As we were passing we noticed a Hyena at the carcass, tearing dried flesh, and gnawing on bones, trying to get out marrow. After we stopped, we saw a couple of other hyenas in the distance, waiting until the alpha female had her fill of boney bits. After about 10 minutes of watching, the female started walking toward the Giraffe's head, grabbed it, and started trotting off with it, proud of her trophy. One of the other hyenas started to chase the dominant female with the head. She continued on, walking slowly, and stopped for a bit to chew on the skull for a bit. After another 5 minutes, the hyena picked the head up again and trotted off into the bush, and we were never to see the head again.

Hyena, carrying off her prized Giraffe head into the bush

We jump ahead now to the end of our trip, 2 weeks after our first encounter with the Giraffe. I don't think I will say anything, but just let the pictures speak for themselves...

What's left of the Giraffe... the hyenas did quite a bit cleaning. The top image shows the neck of the giraffe. Giraffe have the same number of vertebrate as you and I, so they just have longer vertebrate


  1. Excellent post... revolting, but excellent.

  2. Hyenas will do quite a number on any carcass (strongest bite force of any animal).

  3. The fly is awesome!
    Any clue to an ID?

  4. Thanks for the comments. According to my friend Eric, the flies are just a family of carrion flies. The white "blob" coming out of their head is an organ that they use to push their way out a the pupae. Only if you find them soon after hatching, and they are under pressure, will the organ still pop out of their heads. After some time, the suture hardens, and the organ is stuck inside the flies head.

  5. Sooooooooooo, "MEAN", you should feel horrible about this. Killing giraffes meanly, by letting the lions eat them. I'll "NEVER" COME TO "THIS" ZOO EVER! THIS ZOO IS THE WORST ZOO I HAVE EVER HERD OF!!!!!!!!!!!!11

  6. T-Bone - You better not step outside your house, because Mother Nature is a cruel and heartless bitch.

  7. aww thats sooo sad and i love giraffes =( :(