Giraffes do appear to be more vulnerable to lightning strikes. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Tony Hisgett
Being the world's tallest animal, is the giraffe more prone to lightning strikes than other animals ?
It's a conundrum that, while outwardly simple, has managed to capture the imagination of the Internet having recently become the most popular ever question to be posted on the AskScience subreddit.
The short answer of course is that, given that they stand up to 6 meters tall, giraffes are indeed more prone to being struck by lightning, but exactly how much of a problem is this in practice ?
While it certainly can happen, the reality is that it is actually extremely rare.
"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," said Darren Naish, a zoologist who had been researching the topic for a book he was writing.
Perhaps the most famous example however involved a giraffe named Betsy who was killed by a lightning strike at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida back in 2003.
In 2011, Universiti Putra Malaysia electrical engineer Chandima Gomes wrote what is perhaps the most widely referenced and definitive paper on the subject of animal lightning strikes.
"Animals with a large separation between their front and back feet... are vulnerable to receive lightning injuries due to the dangerous potential differences that may built up between these feet, in the event of nearby lightning," he wrote.
Source: Real Clear Science | Comments (12)