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Still Waters

Giraffes doomed to be struck by lightning?

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Still Waters

This March, conservationists working at the Rockwood wildlife reserve in South Africa noticed two giraffes missing from the local herd. The day after a heavy thunderstorm, the park staff found the two females, aged four and five years old, lying about 23 feet apart. The giraffes smelled like ammonia, a sign they’d been killed by lightning, Mindy Weisberger reports for Live Science.

A case study of the giraffes’ deaths was published this month in the African Journal of Ecology. The lightning strike apparently hit one giraffe on the top of its head, judging by a fracture in the skull near the base of its antler-like ossicone, George Dvorsky reports for Gizmodo. The other giraffe may have been killed by the strike indirectly, by the lightning’s dispersal through the air or ground.

Adult giraffes stand at between 15 and 19 feet tall, and they live in the savannahs of 12 African countries. Common wisdom tells us that lightning strikes the tallest thing in an open area—so are giraffes at a greater risk of lightning strikes than other animals?



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