Giraffe Reflections

Giraffe Reflections

Text by DALE PETERSON
Photographs by KARL AMMANN
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt3fh2c9
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  • Book Info
    Giraffe Reflections
    Book Description:

    The most comprehensive book on giraffes to appear in the last fifty years, this volume presents a magnificent portrait of a group of animals who, in spite of their legendary elegance and astonishing gentleness, may not entirely survive this century. Dale Peterson's text provides a natural and cultural history of the world's tallest and second-biggest land animals, describing in detail their biology and behavior. He offers a new perspective on the giraffes' place in our world, and argues for the stronger protection of these imposing yet endangered creatures and their elusive forest relatives, the okapis. Some 120 stunning photographs by award-winning wildlife photographer Karl Ammann capture the grace and elegance of Giraffa camelopardalis. Both beautiful and informative, the images document giraffes' complex interactions with each other and their environment.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95696-4
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-viii)
  3. SPIRITS
    (pp. 1-26)

    IT WAS STILL DARK when Karl and I left camp. On the way to where we thought the giraffes might be, we passed through a feeding group of Thomson’s gazelles. Illuminated starkly by our headlights, they looked like precious tchotchkes: delicate little legs, prancing style, nervously tic-tocking tails.

    Fifteen or twenty minutes later, we surprised three giraffes lying down in the grass and looking dazed, as if they had just woken up after a long and satisfying night’s sleep. They were emerging from the darkness, bathed faintly in the light-speckling dawn, and all we saw at first was what appeared...

  4. CHIMERAS
    (pp. 27-44)

    ONE WINTER DAY in the third decade of the third century BC, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the Greek king of Egypt, presented in the capital city of Alexandria the biggest parade in history.¹ This Grand Procession, as it has been called—an all-day event that began with the morning star and ended with the evening star—was intended to express to the entire world the rising power, piety, and glory of old Egypt under her new Greek ruler.

    To project power was essential given that the enemies of Egypt were themselves powerful and menacing. The military message of the Grand Procession...

  5. UNICORNS
    (pp. 45-60)

    IN THE HISTORICAL ANNALS of the Chinese, the earliest known reference to Africa appears in the Yu-yang-tsa-tsu, written by the scholar Tuan Ch’eng-shih, who died in AD 863.

    Relaying stories and information that had been provided by travelers from the West, Tuan described a land called Po-pa-li, which probably corresponds to a coastal portion of today’s northern Somalia. This hostile, faraway land was home to some strange animals, the scholar wrote, including “the camel-crane” (ostrich), the “mule with red, black, and white stripes wound as girdles around the body” (zebra), and “the so-called tsu-la, striped like a camel and in...

  6. ZARAFAS
    (pp. 61-80)

    FOLLOWING THE GREEK AND ROMAN HABIT, Arabic authors of the Middle Ages continued to identify giraffes as camelopards, but Arabic speakers began applying a word that sounded like zurafa or zarafa. The word, according to one early commentator, came from a linguistic root meaning “assembly,” in reference to the idea that this animal was an assemblage of parts of different animals. Another Arabic scholar insisted that it derived from the Ethiopian zarat, meaning “thin” or “slender.”¹

    Rome and the classical world had depended on Egypt as the sole gateway to deeper Africa and thus the sole source of giraffes, but...

  7. GIRAFFIDS
    (pp. 81-94)

    IN THE ITURI FOREST of the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo lives an extraordinary animal called the okapi. I sometimes think of okapis as forest giraffes. Although giraffes stand alone and lonely—the sole members of their own genus Giraffa—okapis linger not far outside that genus. Giraffes and okapis happen to be each other’s closest living relatives, even though at first glance they may seem like very, very different creatures indeed—okapis being short-necked, shadow-colored, and lurking in a swirl of shadowed rainforest; giraffes being long-necked, sun-colored, and living in sun-blasted savanna and woodland. Okapis are also much...

  8. BODIES
    (pp. 95-114)

    WITH ONLY A FEW BRIEF REPORTS, unreliable drawings, and no specimen material to work from, the Swedish botanist Karl Linnaeus originally placed giraffes within the larger group of animals that included deer, sheep, and goats. In 1735, he named the species Cervus camelopardalis. Then the bodies began to arrive. Bodies: skins and skeletons that became the raw material of museum displays and scientific specimen collections, carefully preserved in the drawers, cabinets, and closets of a few zoological research institutions in England and continental Europe.

    They came, first, from southern Africa, soon after a group of men led by Dutch explorers...

  9. BEHAVIORS
    (pp. 115-140)

    IT COULD HAVE BEEN THE GREAT HEIGHT. Maybe it was the huge, solemn face or the intelligent gaze from a dark and glistening orb. It might have been a strangely swaying gentleness or yet some other aspect of the towering drama: a sudden burst of movement, for instance, a rapid shift in pattern or a clattering clash of light and dark. To a small child everyone is a giant, certainly, but for this particular child to find the giant among giants must have been astonishing, and that this particular giant among giants seemed a benevolent one would have been deeply...

  10. MOTHERS
    (pp. 141-164)

    AT THE FLEUR DE LYS FARM in South Africa, a fire set to clear brush and open new grassland for cattle unfortunately trapped three giraffes, including a mother and her infant. Leaping into thorn trees and flaring up in bright, ten-foot-high bursts of sparks, the flames were threatening the animals from three directions by the time zoologist Anne Innis and farm manager Alexander Matthew arrived.

    The giraffes stood, apparently frozen in fear, as a worker, waving his arms, cursing and shouting, encouraged them to move: “Get out! Get out!” he shouted. “That way, you stupid brutes!”

    Only when the fire...

  11. OTHERS
    (pp. 165-196)

    GIRAFFES ARE GREGARIOUS BUT NOT TERRITORIAL. “Not territorial” means that no one tries to own real estate. “Gregarious” means that they often spend time in each other’s company.¹

    Giraffe social groups, or herds, commonly consist of roughly a half dozen individuals, with more precise averages showing considerable regional variance.² Herds can be as small as two individuals moving together or as large as twenty or thirty or even fifty and more. One researcher counted 175 giraffes gathered in a single place.³ But these groups are also remarkably unstable. Any herd will vary in size and composition from day to day,...

  12. KINDS
    (pp. 197-211)

    BY THE START OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, European scientists had been introduced, more or less, to giraffes from both the northern and southern ends of Africa. Karl Linnaeus based his 1735 classification of giraffes on some crude sketches and rough reports of captive northern giraffes seen by a few travelers to the Middle East. By the 1790s, François Le Vaillant’s memoir of travels in southern Africa, along with his shipments of specimen hides and bones, introduced southern giraffes in a more material fashion to European experts. But were the northern and southern giraffes the same kind of beast?

    French zoologist...

  13. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 212-212)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 213-215)
  15. REFERENCES
    (pp. 216-218)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 219-221)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 222-222)