iOS app Android app More

Cate Matthews   |   July 24, 2014    9:54 AM ET

Bill and Barbara Westbrook are frequent visitors to the Olare Motorogi Conservancy in Kenya, but they'll be the first to say that their most recent visit was the best yet.

While at the conservancy's Kicheche Bush Camp, the Westbrooks witnessed a standoff between a mother giraffe and a pride of lions intent on eating her calf.

Even though she was outnumbered, and without any sharp claws of her own, the giraffe stood strong to protect her calf.

"This was remarkable, going on for almost half an hour as the mother protected her calf ferociously from the young Moniko pride," Barbara Westbrook said, describing the experience for the camp. "It was heart in the mouth stuff."

Eventually the mother giraffe advanced on the pride of lions, kicking out her long legs to scare them off. It was a gamble, to be sure, but one that paid off. The lions scrambled to retreat.

Before the Olare Motorogi Conservancy was formed in 2006, the grasslands in the area were overgrazed, and the situation, for both people and wildlife, unsustainable. According to the conservancy's website, meetings with local Maasai leaders led to a new vision of conservation, one that helps to protect both the lions and the giraffes in the Westbrooks' video.

Watch the full interaction above. It all goes to show: there's nothing more fierce than a mother protecting her young.

Jacqueline Howard   |   July 7, 2014    4:33 PM ET

The average giraffe weighs a ton -- literally. How do giraffes' spindly legs stand up to that immense weight without buckling?

Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College in London may have found the answer.

"It turns out that the suspensory ligament plays an important role," Dr. John Hutchinson, a professor of evolutionary biomechanics at the college, told BBC News.

A suspensory ligament is a strip of elastic tissue that supports an organ or bone in the body. In humans there are a number of suspensory ligaments, including the ligament that connects the ovary to the pelvic wall and the one that helps position the lens of the eye.

Suspensory ligaments are found in large animals, including horses and giraffes, too. But this is the first time scientists have studied the ligament in giraffes.

suspensory ligamentAnatomy of the forelimb of a horse, indicating location of suspensory ligament.

For the study, researchers took the legs of captive animals that had died of natural causes and tested their strength by using a hydraulic press to apply weights of up to 550 pounds (250 kilograms). The legs remained upright and stable even without the support of living muscle tissue. The scientists concluded that the suspensory ligament located along the lower leg bones explains the legs' great strength.

Future studies may reveal how this ligament has evolved.

"I'd like to link modern giraffes with fossil specimens to illustrate the process of evolution," researcher Christopher Basu, a Ph.D. student in biomedical sciences at the college, said in a written statement. "We hypothesize that the suspensory ligament has allowed giraffes to reach large sizes that they otherwise would not have been able to achieve."

The research was presented on July 2, 2014 at the annual meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology in Manchester, England.

William Goodman   |   February 3, 2014   12:29 PM ET

Alright, go ahead and stop us if you've heard this one before: a female giraffe named Perdy walks into a restaurant at the Lion Park in Johannesburg, South Africa...

No, this isn't the setup for a joke, but a candid moment captured on camera by Tambako last November. If we were there, we'd gladly let Perdy join us at our table!

Via Daily and Flicks

10 Safari Surprises: Animal Behaviors You Never Expect You'll See

Kevin Richberg   |   November 26, 2013   10:48 AM ET

An African safari needs no hype nor hyperbole; it's easily one of the most incredible experiences of a traveler's life.

In Tanzania's Serengeti National Park (especially in the dry season), you are absolutely guaranteed to see most of the animals from your childhood ABC's book. With the right guide, a comfortable jeep, and nice warm day, a 10-hour trek through the Serengeti (the Maasai word meaning 'Endless Plains') will blow your mind.

Add to all that the safari 'X-Factor!' Each and every drive, no matter how many you take, is completely different. Seeing wild African animals in their natural environment is stunning in and of itself; seeing them interact in ways you only know about through National Geographic makes your safari one in a million:

1) Three Infant Giraffes following a Single Mother


These three giraffes were born at almost exactly the same time around six months ago to three separate mothers in their coalition. Giraffes are extremely social animals, but their groups are ever-changing. The strongest bonds of all are between mothers and offsprings followed closely by giraffe babies with each other. These three giraffes are a tight bunch, meaning their mothers will also stay together for months during their upbringing.

2) Juvenile Male Lion Under the Jeep Tire


Although the key element in the term 'wild animals' is the word 'wild,' safari-goers are often shocked at the nonchalance some of the Serengeti's creatures exhibit towards the jeeps and their occupants. This is known as habituation, meaning a decreased response to stimuli due to repeat exposure. This male lion cub (about a year old) has grown up seeing safari jeeps every day of his life, and sees them as just another aspect of his day (neither threatening nor interesting). In the heat of the midday sun the shadow cast by the jeep is much more appealing to the lion cub than the jeep itself.

3) Three-Month-Old Lion Cubs Having Their First Solid Meal


The Serengeti is the perfect place for the study of lion behavior, and in the foreground of this shot of a zebra kill you can see the tracking collar placed around a senior female in this pride. Her sister had recently given birth to four healthy lion cubs, two of which are visible in this image (the third and fourth are feeding behind the carcass and out of view). Our guide was able to watch their progress each day his guests would come across this pride while on a Serengeti drive. This was the very first time our guide had seen the cubs dive into a fresh kill, for what he called "their very first meat."

4) A Friendly Neighborhood Giraffe


This is Uncle Freddy, who's been a lifelong resident of Migration Camp in the north of Serengeti National Park. He was born near the camp which caters to safari-goers year round, and therefore Uncle Freddy has no fears associated with standing near to the guests. In fact this image was taken from my camera with no zoom while I was standing directly in front of him. Personally, I've only witnessed this type of behavior from giraffes housed or raised in a sanctuary. For a completely wild giraffe this is quite an amazing sight. Uncle Freddy often sleeps next to the guests' safari tents (he slept next to mine the night before this image was taken) because he enjoys the safety provided by the camp's 'predator-free zone' (the big cats give Migration Camp a wide berth because they dislike being close to human habitation). The local guides say that Uncle Freddy has been trying to convince his 'giraffe-friends' to also hang out closer to the camp, and I wish him the best of luck with that.

5) An Elephant Crouches to Get the Best Grasses


Elephants spend an astonishing 18 hours each day feeding on vegetation and grasses. So it's highly likely that when your safari jeep pulls up to an elephant herd they will be in the process of eating something. This large bull male was walking along a ridge over a small creek in Serengeti National Park until he found what he was searching for, the tender grasses growing along specific edges of the creek. To grasp them, he had to crouch down on his knees and reach over the ridge with his massive 300-pound trunk to grab the tender grasses he'd been seeking.

6) Three Lady Cheetahs Sharing the Shade


Cheetahs are not considered 'group animals' and adults are mostly found living solitary lives. Exceptions to this rule are two to three males who have formed a coalition (hunting/social group which maximizes success at catching prey and defending territories), and mothers who remain with their cubs until they are considered adults. Female cheetahs live solitary lives over what is known as a 'home range.' This is why seeing three adult female cheetahs in a single grouping is a very rare sight. Our guide was able to give us two possible explanations: one was that two of these cheetahs are daughters to the third and are on the verge of leaving their mother and each other to find their own ranges; the second possibility was that these were three sisters who have remained together longer than is usually found in nature, and will almost certainly separate at some point in the future.

7) Eating What Vultures Won't


Pop-culture knowledge tells us that vultures are the last of the scavengers to finish off what remains of the bloated carcasses no other animal will touch. However there is another large bird which lives to eat the material not even vultures consider edible: the marabou stork. Considered one of the most hideous birds in Africa, the marabou is often found in garbage dumps and sites of human refuse eating anything it can fit in its mouth. Here you see an adult marabou stork feeding on the final leftovers of a hippo which had died earlier in the week (the hippo's leg bone is on the right of the image). The vultures picked over the carcass the day before, and what the vultures wouldn't eat was left to the marabous.

8) A Secretary Bird Making the Kill


Secretary birds are some of the most regal animals on the plains of the Serengeti. They march across the savannah with gorgeous plumage and an eye for snakes, their favorite foods. Watching them dispatch an almost certainly venomous snake cloaked in the grasses is quite the event. In this image you see a secretary bird as it pounces with raptor claws onto its victim before it swallows it whole.

9) A Hungry Leopard Stalking Her Prey


Watching a leopard stalking her prey from start to finish is one of the most amazing events on the wish list of every safari-goer. We watched as this female leopard descended from a tree to begin stalking a lone male thompson's gazelle she'd spotted in the distance. In order to sneak up on her prey she crouched into the 'stalking position,' carefully moving in the direction of the gazelle until she was within striking distance.

10) Zebra Save the Life of a Thompson's Gazelle


The result of the leopard's gazelle hunt was not as she probably expected. A small group of adult zebras (animals far too large for an adult leopard to bring down) ended up creating a wall of protection which the gazelle was able to run behind. The threat of a zebra kick to the face (an action which can easily kill a full grown leopard) was enough to cause the female leopard to end her pursuit of the gazelle and admit defeat. She returned to her tree to wait for her next hunting opportunity.

All 10 of these animal events happened within one 48-hour period on the Serengeti in drives between Migration Camp in the north of the park and Pioneer Camp in the south of the park.

The great thing about the Serengeti is that you never know what you're going to see on your game drives. You're guaranteed to see the park's animals (that much is assured), but what aspects of their lives you'll be able to view changes each and every day, over each and every drive. That's what makes no two trips to the Serengeti the same; each one is totally unique.

Photographs taken by Kevin Richberg and Brian McCafferty

Alexis Kleinman   |   October 28, 2013    5:05 PM ET

No, your friends haven't just discovered how adorable giraffes are. An emerging trend on Facebook has people changing their profile pictures to images of the long-necked animal after failing to solve a tough riddle.

Here's how it works: Someone posts the riddle on Facebook, challenging their friends to answer it in a private message. If the person gets it right, congrats: He or she keeps the same profile picture. But if the person gets it wrong, the unfortunate friend must make his or her profile pic a giraffe.

The riddle goes like this:

3:00 am, the doorbell rings and you wake up. Unexpected visitors. It's your parents and they are there for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread and cheese. What is the first thing you open?

These people apparently got it wrong:

facebook giraffe

facebook giraffe

It's unclear how the game started or how giraffes relate to the riddle at all, but we're just glad a fun game like this is going viral instead of another scam.

And there are, for the record, two accepted answers to the riddle being discussed online. Scroll down past this giraffe to see what they are.

facebook giraffe

Answers: "The door" and "your eyes." After all, it's 3 a.m. in the riddle.

Talking about Art is like Dancing about Architecture

Edward Goldman   |   September 17, 2013    7:40 PM ET


Renowned performance artist, Laurie Anderson, famously said that talking about music is like dancing about architecture. Every time I go on the air with my Art Talk, I have a similar thought - that talking about ART is like dancing about architecture.

These days, it's so easy to go on the Internet and check out the KCRW website to see the artwork that I am talking about, but years ago when I started, that was definitely not the case. That's why I developed a policy where, instead of trying to describe an artwork, I would rather share with the listeners my thoughts and feelings about what I've seen.


In an ideal world, I would like to take all of you with me to artists' studios to experience their works firsthand - to see, to touch, and even to smell their art. Or, to invite you all to go with me to museums to see great works of art - and not just pass them by, but to slow down and actually spend some time taking in the beauty of the ancient Greek vase, and "listening" to the voice of Rembrandt in his self portrait, or almost inhaling the dizzy energy of a Jackson Pollock painting.

This past Sunday, I was asked to be a speaker at TEDxVeniceBeach and I chose to talk about art and its importance in the lives of all of us. Most of the speakers had a PowerPoint presentation, but I opted to just talk about art without showing it.

I spoke about the uniqueness of our encounters with ancient or contemporary works of visual art, which we can experience firsthand, in real time and real space. It's different than other forms of art. With all due respect and love for, let's say, Mozart or Shakespeare, we inevitably experience their art performed, translated and interpreted through sensibilities of our time.


I also shared a story about holding an ancient Greek vase in my hands when I was only 12 or 13 years old and trembling with excitement, feeling that the 2000+ years that separated us has disappeared. We all know perfectly well that touching artwork in a museum is a big NO-NO. But yours truly once committed this crime. While I was still working at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, a curator friend of mine called me on a Monday - the museum's day off - and asked if I could help her do something very special, though she mysteriously refused to explain what it was.

I rushed to the museum and met her at the galleries devoted to Italian Renaissance art. She pulled out a sharp knife with which she broke the seal at a display case containing the two arguably most famous Hermitage paintings - two small early paintings of Madonna with Child by Leonardo da Vinci. Each of them painted on a thin wood panel, each of them having the dimensions of a standard letter sized paper. My friend handed one of them to me and held the other Madonna herself. And then we proceeded to walk through dozens of museum rooms and descended into the conservation department where the Chief Conservator had to carefully examine the condition of the paintings to be sure that nothing had happened since the previous examination ten years prior.


I still vividly remember this out of body experience of holding Leonardo and his Madonna in my hands - literally in my hands. No, I wasn't wearing white gloves. So, my right hand thumb lightly touched upon the blue robe of Madonna at the bottom corner of the painting but, thank God, lightning didn't strike me. After I finished my TED talk, I generously offered to let anyone interested come up and touch my thumb.

Somehow, the power and magic of art helped and guided me when I left Russia and came to this City of Angels. One of the kind souls that helped me in my first months suggested that I go to see his friend who knows a lot about art and lives in Venice. "Venice, Italy?" I asked. Isn't that a little far to travel for advice? "No, silly!" responded my friend. "It's right here in LA, near the beach." And lucky for me, this person turned out to be none other than Frank Gehry, years before he became a household name in the world of architecture.


And one of the first LA artists whom I visited in her Venice studio was the amazing and ever-surprising Lita Albuquerque. She was pregnant with her first child and she allowed me to touch her belly, which in Russia is considered great luck.

So, thanks to Frank and Lita and hundreds of other amazingly talented and creative people in LA, I had an almost instantaneous, sort of chemical reaction to this amazing city, which makes me believe in the romantic notion of love at first sight.

Trying to compare Los Angeles to any other famous city is completely missing the point. I see this beautiful, exotic and slightly weird metropolis of ours as a "giraffe" of a city. I even dreamed once of being on a clogged freeway and instead of driving a car, I was riding a giraffe. How about that?


In the last few decades, LA earned a reputation as one of the most important centers of contemporary art in the world. The largest concentration of the best American art schools is here in Southern California as well. A lot of young artists from the four corners of the world come here to study and work, while the number of major NY art dealers expanded their businesses by opening new galleries in LA. One of them, Perry Rubenstein, gave me this response to my question about why he chose to come to LA: "Let me tell you Edward. Los Angeles to New York today is what New York used to be to Paris in the 1950s." Wow. Just think about that. I don't know a better way to define the power and magic of LA's art scene for the whole world.


Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.

WATCH: He Just Wants To Be Your Friend, Guys!

Jessica Leader   |   June 24, 2013    4:55 PM ET

Looks like someone is just a little too eager to make friends.

In the above video uploaded by YouTube user StreetSmartyy, tourists at a South African game park are being chased by a wild giraffe. Although you don't need to speak Afrikaans to be able to understand their terror (especially since they drop at least one English F-bomb), the giraffe seems to quickly lose interest in the group.

Even though this giraffe looks pretty darn adorable, the tourists had good reason to put the pedal to the metal. According to the San Diego Zoo, giraffes can run up to 35 miles per hour and have a mighty kick.

Has a wild animal ever gotten too close to your personal space? Let us know in the comments below!

WARNING: Slightly graphic language in the above video.

PHOTOS: This Is How A Baby Giraffe Sleeps

James Gerken   |   May 29, 2013   12:26 PM ET

Have you ever wondered how a giraffe sleeps?

The tallest living land animal doesn't sleep as long as other mammals, but they certainly find a weird way of getting comfortable.

One study from the University of Zurich found that giraffes also sleep standing up, and the peculiar sleep position seen below isn't that common. Adult giraffes, the researchers found, assume this position for less then five percent of the average 4.6 hours they sleep each day.

(Photos posted by user arbili.)

Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) are classified as "least concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but two subspecies of giraffe are both classified as endangered. It has been estimated that there are fewer than 200 Rothschild's giraffes in the wild.

Habitat degradation, poaching and armed conflicts in East Africa are some of the biggest threats to giraffes, according to IUCN.

(H/t Neatorama)

Call of the Wild: 8 Offbeat Places to Connect with Nature

minube   |   May 15, 2013    8:38 AM ET

For years, travelers have flocked to the great national parks of Africa and North America to get a glimpse of the world's most incredible creatures in their natural element. More and more, however, travelers are parting from the beaten path and discovering interesting and bizarre corners of the world where they can come face-to-face with mother nature.

From ancient temples crawling with monkeys and rats to desolate beaches teeming with exotic wildlife, here are 10 unusual places to connect with nature, all recommended by real travelers and locals on minube.


1.) Giraffe Manor, Kenya - Located in a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, this colonial British hotel offers guests a most unusual roommate: live giraffes. While the rooms aren't cheap (they can be upwards of $500/night), they do offer a once in a lifetime chance to have brunch with one of your curious, long-necked neighbors. (Photo by Sonia Givray)


2.) Hanauma Bay, O'ahu - Hanauma Bay is a protected marine park on the island of Big Island of Hawaii and offers an unspoilt reef teeming with turtles, fish, and reef sharks. Aside from snorkeling in the shallows, travelers can find local dive operators who'll let them feed sharks in the wild and take turns in a shark cage. (Photo by Pablo2Ore)


3.) Jamaa el Fnaa, Morocco - Jamaa el-Fnaa is the main market in Marrakech and, as visitors can attest, is like entering an Indiana Jones movie. Travelers can find all manner of fruit and juice vendors, as well as fortune tellers, street dentists, monkey shows, and, of course, Morocco's legendary snake-charmers. (Photoby Leo Aparicio)


4.) Galwar Bagh Monkey Temple, India - In the Indian State of Rajahsthan, the Galtaji Temple has been a destination for religious pilgrims for centuries. More recently, the temple has been drawing travelers thanks to its large tribe of rhesus macaques which have earned the site the nickname "Galwar Bagh" (Monkey Temple). (Photo by Clara Matias)


5.) Punta Nifas, Argentina - Punta Ninfas (Nympth's Point) in central Argentina is a hotspot for adventurous nature lovers who are drawn there by the large colony of elephant seals. The seals also draw groups of killer whales, many of which are not shy about showing off for visitors. (Photo by Belen G. Bonorino)


6.) Tiger Temple, Thailand - In western Thailand, travelers can visit a temple where for the past two decades Buddhist monks have reared Indochinese tigers. While Tiger Temple does let visitors interact with the large cats, it now works hand-in-hand with NGOs after receiving criticism from conservation and animal rights groups. (Photo by Albeto S. Dosantos)


7.) Swayambhunath Temple, Nepal - Perched atop a steep hill in western Kathmandu, Swayambhunath Temple is one of Buddhism's most important holy sites and home to a playful tribe of monkeys. While the curious creatures are a draw for tourists, travelers shouldn't miss the incredible painted stupa and breath-taking views of the city. (Photo by Juanjo Fontanet)


8.) Karni Mata Temple, India - The Karni Mata Temple in Deshnok, India is definitely not for the squeamish. The temple is populated by thousands of rats which are revered as holy by local devotees. White rats are considered especially sacred and it's considered good fortune to have one of the rodent run across your feet. (Photo by Alfredo Vidal)

The Most Epic Fight You'll See Today

Sara Gates   |   January 4, 2013   12:25 PM ET

In a sneak peek at its upcoming seven-part history series "Africa," Discovery revealed what's being billed as the "most violent giraffe fight ever filmed."

The clip from the "Kalahari" episode shows two male giraffes vying for territory in Namibia. The extraordinary giraffe fight, which lasts less than 90 seconds, took the film crew more than four weeks to capture, according to the BBC, which partnered with Discovery to produce the segment.

The documentary crew camped out along the Hoanib River in Namibia in order to film animals in their natural habitats. However, it wasn't until cameraman Martyn Colbeck and his associate got their "lucky break" and were able to capture a giraffe fight on film.

"Even though we were following the oestrous female and the consorting male, the fight came out of nowhere," Colbeck told the BBC, describing a female giraffe's state of sexual receptivity. "Suddenly the challenger came around the corner of a bend in the river and immediately challenged the dominant male in the most brutal way."

During the video, the two giraffes stand side-by-side and swing their 6-foot-long necks -- estimated to weigh around 500 pounds -- at each other.

"It's extremely rare to catch a giraffe fight on film," narrator Forest Whitaker says during the clip. "Most of the time they're gentle vegetarians. But to protect precious territory, they will fight."

While filmed giraffe fights are uncommon, they're not entirely out of the ordinary. In 2007, some lucky tourists stumbled upon a giraffe fight in Tanzania during a safari.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, a giraffe's kick can be powerful enough to kill a lion. Today, the "main threats to giraffes are habitat loss and poaching for meat and hides."

MONIKA SCISLOWSKA   |   October 8, 2012    3:37 PM ET

WARSAW, Poland -- Tofik, a male giraffe who won sympathy in Poland after he lost his two female companions in the wake of an attack by hoodlums near their zoo enclosure, has died during surgery for digestive problems, zoo officials said Monday.

The 5-year-old Rothschild giraffe died Sunday, said Magdalena Janiszewska, the head of the zoo in Lodz, some 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of Warsaw. His stomach condition is believed to not be related to the attack.

  |   October 4, 2012   12:34 PM ET

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's Hogle Zoo has a new resident: a baby giraffe.

The zoo says the 6-foot bundle of leggy joy was born Sept. 23, and mom and baby girl are doing great. They spent the past week bonding and were displayed to the public in the giraffe yard for the first time Wednesday.

PHOTOS: Giraffe Overload!

James Gerken   |   August 19, 2012    4:23 PM ET

Native to Africa, giraffes are the tallest land animals in the world. While they number over 100,000 individuals in the wild and, as a species, are listed as "least concern" by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, several subspecies are presently endangered.

According to IUCN, both the Niger giraffe and Rothschild’s giraffe subspecies are endangered. There may be fewer than 2,500 mature Rothschild’s giraffes in the wild and "numbers are declining overall and no subpopulation is estimated to contain more than 250 mature individuals," explains IUCN. The Niger giraffe suffers a worse fate with "less than 200 individuals" in existence, but IUCN notes the population is "currently increasing under targeted conservation programmes."

Officials at a zoo in Poland recently announced that a male giraffe that was widowed after stress from a hooligan break-in killed his two companions will receive new friends. 5-year-old Rothchild giraffe Tofik will reportedly receive three female companions. According to AP, "after the attack Tofik lost weight, ate little and reacted with panic to any disturbance, but has recovered and is ready for company."

If you wish you could befriend a giraffe, check out this tourist's reaction to a wet giraffe kiss.

Fore more giraffe news, read about the baby giraffes born in July at a Colorado zoo and in March at New York City's Bronx Zoo.

Below, check out some of our favorite photos of giraffes:

  |   August 10, 2012   10:19 AM ET

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A young male giraffe widowed following a hooligan attack in May is set to get three new female partners at his zoo.

The females will arrive next week from two other Polish zoos and one in Leipzig, Germany, Wlodzimierz Stanislawski, the head of the breeding section at the zoo in Lodz, central Poland, said Friday.

Leipzig zoo is sending 2-year-old Lira and Warsaw zoo 2-year-old Lokatka. The 9-year-old Judita is to come from Plock, in central Poland.

They will fill the void that the 5-year-old Rothschild giraffe Tofik suffered after the death of two companions. Both died of stress following an attack by unidentified vandals who overturned signs and threw benches and garbage cans into animal runs in the nearest neighborhood of the enclosure of the naturally skittish giraffes.

In the weeks after the attacks, Stanislawski said, Tofik lost weight, ate little and reacted with panic to any disturbance. But the giraffe has recovered and is ready for company now, the official said.

Rothschild giraffes are rare and protected subspecies, and the zoo employees hope Tofik and his new companions will mate and produce offspring.