August 19, 2009
Much to my embarrassment, I hadn’t considered some of the mortal dangers faced by giraffes.
“If there’s a lightning leader already approaching the ground, it will certainly look for something tall to hit in its immediate vicinity,” says Professor David Smith of the University of California’s physics department. “Since water is pretty conductive (particularly salty water), your giraffe is a pretty good conductor and probably does attract lightning pretty well.”
Oh, it gets sadder and a little bizarre:
Lightning strikes may be a significant danger to giraffes in environments that have few tall trees and are topographically or geologically predisposed to attract lightning. One eyewitness report suggests that, during lightning storms, giraffes lower their heads and may even compete with one another to become lower in height… Between 1996 and 1999 the Rhino and Lion Reserve near Krugersdorp, South Africa, had two of its three giraffes killed by lightning - the third animal, a juvenile, was also struck but survived. Betsy the giraffe was killed by lightning at Walt Disney World in Florida in 2003 in front of lots of witnesses.
I’m guessing the combination of giraffes and lightning isn’t something readers had given much thought either. See? We’re learning together.