Emotional moment giraffes hold ‘funeral’ to mourn for member of their herd who died during childbirth that drove tourist to tears

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Photographer, Callum Perry, 28, from the UK, who is currently travelling around South Africa, shot this rare moment in the Marataba Contractual National Park.

He said: ‘It brought a tear to my eye – watching the journey of giraffes approach their fallen friend was one of the most emotional scenes I’ve ever witnessed.

‘The giraffe funeral made me take a step back and look at the beauty I’ve seen in my life, and that even in life’s toughest moments, there can be silver linings.

‘I was truly captivated by the emotion of this whole scene – words can barely do it justice. I feel honoured to have been there as they all paid their respects.

‘Most people I know in the safari industry had never seen this occur before, so they were amazed and a little jealous.’

Pictures show a group of more than five giraffes investigate the dead body as it lay on the floor.

In the video, one giraffe is seen walking over to the dead member of their pack, before it was followed by others.

One by one, each giraffe bowed down to send off their beloved friend.

It is thought that giraffes grieve for their dead, as Zoe Muller, a University of Bristol wildlife biologist who founded the Rothschild’s Giraffe Project in Kenya, recalled a moment she witnessed more than a decade ago.

Muller said she saw 17 female giraffes look distressed and the pack travelled to a part of the savanna they do not usually visit.

It turned out a calf had died and Muller witnessed the group of giraffes gather with its mother and stayed with her for two days after its death.

She interpreted the behaviour of the giraffes as grief but she was reluctant to say this, as some scientists believe the opposite.

She said, as quoted in The National Wildlife Federation: ‘My personal stance has changed. I would now be a lot more open about acknowledging nonhuman grief. Giraffes, humans, we’re all mammals.

‘Our system of emotion is largely driven by hormones, and hormones are likely to have evolved similarly in all mammals.’

A similar incident happened to Zoologist Professor Fred Bercovitch whilst he was tracking Thornicroft’s giraffes in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

Prof Bercovitch said he saw a female giraffe bend down towards her dead newborn calf and spent time licking it before standing up. She spent two hours investigating her newborn’s corpse.


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This article by Gina Kalsi was first published by The Daily Mail on 18 October 2023. Lead Image: Photographer, Callum Perry, 28, from the UK, who is currently travelling around South Africa , shot this rare moment in the Marataba Contractual National Park.

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