Tower calves a new future

FOLLOWING MOM: The two giraffe calves follow mom out of the bush and away from the camera to find a place they can ruminate in peace                                                                                            Picture: ROB KNOWLES

Twins born just a month ago are already over 2m tall but, don’t worry, they are giraffes.

Born on the Riverview Estate in early December, the twin giraffes are fit and healthy and enjoying living in the Eastern Cape.

Twin births are rare for giraffes. Out of 8,600 normal births worldwide, there are only 32 twin births, making the Riverview pair unique to the area. A further distinction is that they are the only giraffes in the country born within the urban boundary. Most, if not all others are outside urban areas on game parks and at game lodges.

HIGH STAKES: The tower of giraffe gather around the twins in order to protect them                                                                                                                                                                               Picture: ROB KNOWLES

Riverview Estate developer and local businessman Justin de wet Steyn showed Talk of the Town around the estate that includes myriad species of animals including many varieties of buck, zebra and others, and includes a staggering number birds including over 30 varieties of eagle.

FAMILY PHOTO: The giraffe keep a careful eye on at the camera to ensure the safety of the tower                                                                                                                                                             Picture: ROB KNOWLES

The drive across the seven valleys on the estate showed a profusion of trees and plant species. Finally, in a clearing thick with spekboom the twins could be seen. Staying close to their mother the infants appeared camera shy and refused to make themselves available for a photograph for some time. In the meantime, zebra ran obliviously around them and even a few buck tentatively nibbled leaves from the nearby trees.

“Pregnancy lasts for about 15 months,” said De wet Steyn. “They don’t show until quite close to the end and then they take another female from the tower (the collective noun for giraffe) and go somewhere quiet where the birth takes place. The mother gives birth standing up so the infant drops 2m to the ground, snapping the umbilical cord.”

THE POWER OF THE TOWER: Giraffe are very social animals, but you may not get too close. A kick from a giraffe can kill a lion so staying in the vehicle while taking photographs is the only way to do it                                                                                                                                                                            Picture: ROB kNOWLES

Newly-born giraffe are usually able to stand up and nurse within 30 minutes after birth.

Watching the tower congregate around the twins on our arrival was an indication that the older giraffes are very protective of their young, appearing like sentries around their treasure. The tallest of the giraffes, a male and probably the twins’ father, stared at the vehicle and the camera, like a prize-fighter at the weigh-in in anticipation of a fight. In time, however, and with the engine switched off, the elder giraffes appeared less anxious and began moving apart, but still in a position to deliver a fatal kick should they have felt the youngsters were in any danger.

STANDING TALL: Bull, cow and calf stand together watching out for the next tree to feed on                                                                                                                                                                     Picture: ROB KNOWLES

After a while the tower moved off with their slow-motion-like lope, deceptively quick, to reach another area where they could feed without being observed and photographed.

GOODBYE FOR NOW: The giraffe tower wander further into the estate where they can feed without the presence of humans                                                                                                 Picture: ROB KNOWLES

“I think the slightly taller one of the twins, the one that seems less apprehensive, is the male,” commented De wet Steyn. “It’s just too early to tell.” He went on to say that there is a way to tell the sex of a giraffe by its horns. “I’ve never been able to do that,” he concluded.