Giraffes: In it for the sex, or something more?

giraffeIt is great to see another wildlife documentary hitting our screens, presented by one of my idols – Sir David Attenborough. At the age of 86 he is still on location, not only inspiring a nation but also teaching the importance of understanding and conserving our natural world.

One of the highlights of the BBC’s “Africa: Kalahari” was an impressive clip of two male Giraffes fighting each other to claim a female. If you have not seen giraffes fighting, YouTube is scoured with some amazing videos! In the programme the clip is slowed down to emphasise the sheer impact each blow has on the opposition. The fight itself lasted a few minutes at most, but the losing giraffe was left with some severe injuries, and looked all but dead for some time.

But why do these seemingly gentle giants put their lives at risk for the sake of a female? Well, both males want to pass on their genes – this is the ultimate goal of all life, to survive and reproduce. But, the males want to be sure the female is carrying their offspring. Out in the wild, there is no contraception so the only way to make sure your genes are passed on is to fight off any competition.

For a lion or any other predator, their weapons are obvious, but a giraffe has to use what is available to them – a very long neck! But there is a considerable danger to these fights, such as broken bones, and fatal blows.

What is the point? It may seem like a massive risk to enter a fight like this, but for a giraffe it is a way of life. It is, survival of the fittest.
Those giraffes with the best genes, the ones that produce the strongest bones, the greatest agility and the best stamina will win fights with other males. It is these males that are most likely to pass on their genes, ensuring the best genes in the gene pool are passed on to the next generation.

However, what a giraffe thinks it is doing entering into a potentially fatal battle, for the sake of what must only seem ‘a bit of fun’ is anyone’s guess – but then again, maybe I don’t give giraffes and their intelligence the credit they deserve!