113. It’s Mother’s Day

In recognition of Mother’s Day, National Geographic posted twenty-one photos of Beautiful Moments Between Animal Mothers and Their Babies in their Photo Gallery. Included with each photo was a short explanation of some of the more unique and varying mothering methods found in the animal kingdom.

“Every animal can thank a mom for making life possible,” writes the author.
“Some mothers lay eggs, in treetops or on the seafloor, while others labor through long pregnancies and live births. Many moms are on their own, but a fortunate few get help from babysitters or nursemaids. Mother-child bonding runs the gamut of relationship styles.”

Among the twenty-one animals featured in the photo gallery, five live on African soil.

And despite the heart-warming topic, not all the photos conjure up warm and cuddly thoughts.

Source: National Geographic, Photography by Zssd, Miden Picture



Emperor scorpion mothers give birth to an average of nine to 32 fully formed young. Here, an emperor scorpion, one of the world’s largest scorpions, carries her immature offspring on her back.


Source: National Geographic, photography by Nichols, Nat Geo Image Collection



Lion moms may live with their daughters for life. The African lions live in prides dominated by related females, like this cub-wrangling mom in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.


Source: National Geographic, photography by Frans Lanting, Nat Geo Image Collection



During the early weeks of her cubs’ lives, the mother must move them every few days to avoid predators. If all goes well, cheetah siblings stay with their mom for about a year and a half, learning to hunt.
Some cheetahs are supermoms, not only raising their own young but fostering the cubs of others.


Source: National Geographic, photography by Zssd, Miden Pictures



Hippo calves are often born underwater. It’s up to Mom to push her calf to the surface to take its first breath.

Mothers are fiercely protective of their young, but they also have a softer side, cleaning and doting on their calves. If its baby dies, mothers even display what some scientists interpret as grief.


Source: National Geographic, photography by Madelaine Castles, Nat Geo Image Collection



Giraffe calves stand within 30 minutes of birth. It’s critical that they do so, as newborn calves are a favorite meal of many African predators.
Before they are born, mom has to endure a 15-month pregnancy, which allows for the development of a six-foot-tall baby with strong muscles and nervous system.

106. Breakfast with the Rothschilds

Nathaniel Jacob Rothschild and the Rothschild Coat of Arms

Linda and I have plans to join Jacob Rothschild and his son for breakfast in late August.
Lord Jacob, 4th Barron and member of the prominent Rothschild banking family,
lives here in his palatial manor, 35 minutes outside of Nairobi, Kenya.

Source: amazing places.com, Giraffe Manor

No, wait! This is not his home, and he and his son are not the Rothschilds we’ll be joining for breakfast.
We’ll be eating breakfast with the Rothschild’s giraffes at Giraffe Manor.

Source: southernafro.com, Giraffe Manor

The manor house was built in 1932 as a hunting lodge.
In 1974, the lodge and surrounding grounds were turned into a giraffe sanctuary when the new owners learned that Rothschild’s giraffes were in danger of extinction. (The apostrophe is in the right place, by the way.) Since then, Rothschild’s giraffes have thrived, with 140 acres of indigenous forest to make their home, alongside warthogs, dik diks, waterbucks and over 180 species of bird.

Source: amazingplaces.com




There are more than ten giraffes on the property these days. They’re very used to the manor’s guests. In the morning, they put their heads through the open windows in order to eat the pellets that are served alongside each guest’s breakfast order.

Rothschild’s giraffes are one of the most endangered populations of giraffe, with 1,669 individuals estimated in the wild in 2016.
They display no markings on the lower leg.


They are the only giraffes to be born with 5 ossicones. Two of these are the larger and more obvious ones at the top of the head, which are common to all giraffes. The third ossicone can often be seen in the center of the giraffe’s forehead, and the other two are behind each ear.


Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild (1868-1937)

The Rothschild’s giraffe was named after Walter Rothschild, the above mentioned Jacob Rothschild’s great uncle.
Walter Rothschild, 2nd Barron was a London banker, politician and zoologist.
One hundred fifty-three insects, 58 birds, 17 mammals, three fish, three spiders, two reptiles, one millipede and one worm also carry his name.

78. Are the Poachers Winning?

NAIROBI, Kenya — A white female giraffe and her 7-month-old calf, whose rare pigmentation mesmerized wildlife enthusiasts around the world, were discovered to have been killed by poachers in Kenya on March 11 of this year. Conservationists estimated from the state of the carcasses that the animals had been killed four months ago.
This tragedy illustrates the challenges of conservation and the persistent and devastating impact of poaching.


Twiga Nyeupe
White Giraffe

Source: The Guardian

With the deaths of the mother and her baby, only one white giraffe is left roaming freely in Kenya’s wild.
Mohammed Ahmednoor, conservancy manager in northeastern Kenya, said “We are the only community in the world who are custodians of the white giraffe.” He added, “This is a very sad day for the community … and Kenya as a whole.”

The killing of the white giraffes highlighted the threats facing these animals. They were most likely killed for their meat and hide.

These imposing creatures look like giraffe ghosts!

46. Oxpeckers

Oxpeckers *

There are two species of oxpecker, the yellow-billed and the red-billed. The Yellow-billed Oxpecker (image 1) is the more common of the two in Kenya.
Both species, also called tickbirds, have olive-brown or grey-brown bodies, wide bills, stiff tails and sharp claws. They cling to cattle and big-game animals to remove ticks, flies, and maggots from their hides. When alarmed, the birds hiss, alerting their hosts to possible danger. Though they rid animals of pests, oxpeckers also take blood from the sores, which may be slow to heal.

Source: WildEarth, The Oxpeckers Role in the Animal Kingdom, YouTube (Time: 2:33)

The oxpecker populations have been adversely impacted by relentless poisoning, but they live in such a wide range across Africa that they have not approached the classification of Vulnerable.

The Curious Case of the Giraffe and the Oxpecker

Oxpeckers are commonly seen riding along on large mammals while they search their hosts for ticks or open wounds. What’s not so common are the camera-trap images of giraffes at night with these birds using them as movable roosting spots. It is thought that this habit is an adaptation to save the birds time looking for the right animal the following day.

Night images of giraffes show that yellow-billed oxpeckers seem to prefer settling between the hind legs of the giraffe. This may be because it’s a warm spot in winter and keeps them safe from any nocturnal predators.

*Why feature the Oxpecker?

This week’s posts have a sort of Giraffe Week feel to them. Oxpeckers, having a rather important connection to giraffes, fit the theme.

45. Necking



For Homo sapiens, the word “necking” has a somewhat romantic connotation. But for giraffes, it’s just the opposite.

Male giraffes fight with their necks because it’s the most powerful and maneuverable weapon they have. This type of fighting, known as necking, is unique to their species, as most hoofed animals kick, bite or head-butt with lowered horns.

The giraffe bull will fight to establish dominance or to win the right to mate with the females in a particular area. Sometimes the fight is short-lived; on rare occasions, it’s to the death.

Source: Good Morning America, YouTube (Time: 1:58)

Their spot patterns and their super-long dark tongues make giraffes a curiosity, but it’s their long necks that make them the subject of wonder and amazement. Although their necks measure up to eight feet in length and weigh over 600 pounds, they contain only seven cervical vertebrae (neck bones) – the same number as we humans have. The difference is, each giraffe vertebra can be up to one foot in length.

An seven-foot-long neck means that a giraffe’s heart must pump blood 7 feet straight up. Such work is hard on an animal’s heart, and is partly responsible for a 20 – 25 year life span, which might otherwise be longer.

43. Giraffes

The conservation of giraffes has been overlooked for decades and as a result giraffes are in the midst of what some call a “silent extinction.”


Unlike the attention lavished on the disappearance of great apes and elephants (There are four times as many African elephants as giraffes.), people have ignored the disappearance of giraffes and assumed they are doing just fine in the wild.

Mercifully, the world is beginning to wake up. Last December, the State of New York became the first in the nation—and the world—to ban the trade in their body parts.

Kenya is the only country in Africa that hosts three different species of giraffe. (See their markings below.)
Of the three, the Reticulated and the Masai are endangered.

Across Africa, the general giraffe population has declined by almost 40 percent over the past three decades.
Estimations as of 2016 indicate that there are approximately 97,500 giraffes in the wild, down from 155,000 in 1985.

While a great deal of this decline is due to disease and both legal and illegal hunting, the loss of large-scale habitat plays a greater role, fragmenting and degrading the giraffe’s preferred habitat.

Kenya is at the forefront of giraffe conservation. Last September, in an effort to better understand their spatial movements and habitat use in the wild, scientist fitted 28 solar powered GPS satellite tracking units to endangered reticulated giraffe in northern Kenya. Tranquilizing a giraffe to hook it up with a GPS tracker is a lot harder than it sounds – and it sounds hard! 

Source: The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (Time: 1:47)

The giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania, and is protected by law.

42. The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

I love the woman who loves giraffes.
Who wouldn’t after watching the documentary The Woman Who Loves Giraffes.

Source: NY Times

The film shines a light on Anne Innis Dagg’s foundational research which was previously hidden from most of the world because of her gender. In doing so, it brings awareness to the devastating reality that giraffes are facing today: Extinction.

In 1956, four years before Jane Goodall studied the chimpanzee and seven years before Dian Fossey worked with mountain gorillas, 23-year-old biologist Anne Innis Dagg journeyed solo to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild. Her story is one of far-reaching scientific discovery, sexual discrimination and environmental alarm.

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes will appeal to zoologists, environmentalists, ecologists, animal lovers, dreamers, bravehearts, human rights activists, feminists, adventurers, and every female, young or old, who has ever been told, “Sorry, no. You’re a girl.”

Prepare to be inspired.

A 30 minute interview with the film’s remarkable star and its director, Alison Reid, and can be seen on YouTube.
YouTube also offers a way to view the film (for a fee), if it doesn’t play in a theater near you.

(Find a list of screenings for The Woman Who Loves Giraffes in New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and elsewhere on the film’s website.

The day after I viewed The Woman Who Loves Giraffes,
National Geographic emailed the following short article to subscribers.
The article doesn’t speak to safaris or giraffes, but it aligns perfectly with one of documentary’s themes.

TODAY’S BIG QUESTION:
WHEN WILL SCIENCE CELEBRATE EVERYONE EQUALLY?
Wednesday, February 26, 2020

PHOTOGRAPH BY NASABy Victoria JaggardSCIENCE Executive Editor

Science, as a discipline, is somewhat obsessed with the notion of due credit. Woe betide the news writer who does not note which person is the lead author on a study. That’s one reason I’ve been personally fascinated with recent efforts to bring so-called hidden figures in science into the spotlight.

Stories highlighting marginalized people’s contributions to science have been trickling out for decades, but the term “hidden figures” leapt into our shared consciousness thanks to the incredible 2016 book, and subsequent movie, about the Black women who made vital calculations to send early NASA astronauts into space. Both works catapulted NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (pictured above) into international stardom in her mid-90s—even though she made her contributions to the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs decades earlier. Johnson, who died this week at the age of 101, was a true pioneer, and her story will resonate for decades to come.

The exponential increase in stories about other hidden figures can be inspiring stuff, although sometimes the patterns that emerge are heartbreaking. The more I read, the more I see two common narrative arcs: People who did the work loud and proud and were persecuted for it (looking at you, Hypatia), and people who did the work quietly and went consistently unrecognized for far too long (over to you, Eunice Foote and Rosalind Franklin).

Still, I have hope for scientists working today, thanks to the efforts of people like Jessica Wade. A woman working in physics, Wade has been adding biographies of notable women and people of color to Wikipedia’s bounty of scientist biographies. And writers such as Angela Saini are really hitting science where it hurts, uncovering the dark history of inaccuracies, biases, and downright bad research practices that led to so many good scientists being stifled. Maybe, as more people like them champion inclusion in science, the need to celebrate hidden figures will become a thing of the past.