August 11, 2017
Being a day safari specialist in the Kruger National Park we have the pleasure of sharing this iconic wilderness with guests from across the globe. Spending as much time as we do in the bush we establish a view that is unique to us. What’s always refreshing are the first few moments you meet your guests for the day and get to see their excitement, expectations and perceptions of the African wilderness and being on safari. As part of our pre-drive briefing, we always ask our guests what special interests they may have. Most notably and stand out is always the request by our American guests to specifically see Giraffe. You can almost bet your money on it…and how right they are because what an incredible animal it is.
Often overlooked as a key influencer species, the Giraffe is more than just an abnormal looking mammal, its one of the most unique looking species on the plant. The name “Giraffe” has its earliest known origins in the Arabic word “Zarafah” and is translated as “fast-walker”. The modern English name developed in the 1600s from the French name Camelopard, a name based on features being similar to that of a camel and leopard.
Reaching a height of 6meters the Giraffe has a unique competitive advantage when feeding as it almost has exclusive rights to a browsing line that only the Elephant can reach. To whom much is given, much is expected and the Giraffe certainly does stand resolute to this point.
Its this time of year that we see a key tree species, the Knob-Thorn (Acacia Nigrescens) coming into bloom and producing an abundance of beautiful yellow flowers that adorn the African savannah. This tree is a firm favorite of the Giraffe and forms up to 40% of its diet. Looking carefully one can often see a distinct hour-glass shape in tree as a result of regular Giraffe browsing. This is one of the many reasons that Giraffe are considered to be the sole mammal pollinator of the Knob-Thorn and is a unique trait as no other mammal shares a similar title.
It’s this relationship that particularly bring the Giraffe out into the open Savannah at this time of year. As we now watch Kruger undergo her spring transformation, during the month of August the Knob-Thorn produces a profuse creamy yellow flower, which makes for an exclusive feast for the Giraffe. At this time of year very few other trees are flowering so the Knob-Thorns become incredibly visible and attractive, drawing all the Giraffe families in from far and wide. Whilst feeding on the trees the Giraffe’s head and neck become dusted by the pollens and so transfer these to other trees as they feed. Being the end of the dry season there are fewer insects to pollinate so the Giraffe has an enormous responsibility in which it duly obliges. Traversing up to 16km per day they guarantee a wide disposal thus ensuring effective pollination. Yes, this focused browsing does place pressure on the trees but they two are very clever, producing sterile flowers amongst the fertile ones. This ensure that not all the fertile pollen carrying flowers are consumed and guarantees the trees future.
So I guess this time of year would make its best to visit Kruger if its Giraffe that you would like to see. With the flowering of the Knob-Thorns, the savanna plains are teeming with opportunity to watch these fast-walking mammals perform both a unique and very important role in the sustainability of a cornerstone trees species.
We would love you to join Safaria on either a #africansunrisesafari or a #fulldayulendosafari to enjoy and bare witness to this special of nature.