Close up of a giraffe's eye
Animals,  Botswana,  Kenya,  Lens-Artists,  Themed galleries

Gallery: making eyes at me

Giraffes’ eyes are beautiful but they can look rather mournful. Maybe that’s a touch of anthropomorphism, attributing human emotions to an animal? And yet …

The photo above was taken at Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, where we broke our journey to Botswana a few years ago. It struck me then that their eyes looked mournful, and I was to remember that a few days later on one of our game drives in Chobe National Park. It was late in the afternoon and we were already on our way back to the lodge. We passed a clearing where in the morning we had seen a giraffe carcass being picked over by jackals. The jackals were still there, and nearby stood five giraffes (four young males and a female). They seemed truly to understand that here was one of their own and to be mourning for him.

Four giraffes among dry grass with a nearby carcass
Giraffes in Chobe National Park (carcass far right)

It is well known that elephants do this, but our guide Vivian had never seen such behaviour in giraffes and was as fascinated as we were. On our return I searched for examples of similar behaviour, and it does indeed seem to be rare. I found a few cases described of a mother mourning for a dead calf, but very few similar to what we had observed. A 2012 article in the Smithsonian did cite one such example however, from 2011, when ‘a male giraffe stopped to investigate the body of a dead female and inspired four other members of the herd to join him’. So although rare it’s not unheard-of. It seems some animals at least can feel more emotions than we sometimes give them credit for?

An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language

Martin Buber

Animal eyes

For Tina’s Lens Artists Challenge this week I have hunted through my archives for more images of animals and their expressive eyes.

Elephants
Close up of elephant's face
Face on view of young elephant

These are two of the young orphan elephants in the care of the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, also in Nairobi. Could anyone resist the appeal of these intelligent eyes?


Hippo
Hippo looking out of water

This hippo in the Okavango Delta keeps his eyes open just above the surface of the water. A hippo’s eyes, as well as his ears and nostrils, are located at the top of his head. So he is able to see, hear, and breathe while mostly submerged in this manner. A clear membrane covers and protects his eyes so he can see under water too.


Crocodile
Crocodile on a rock, reflected in still water

I get the impression that this crocodile, also in the Okavango Delta, is looking at our passing boat out of the corner of his eye!


Zebra
Zebra looking at camera with blurred animals in background

This zebra, grazing with her herd and a herd of sables in Chobe, has certainly spotted our jeep, but she isn’t at all bothered by our presence and will soon go back to her grazing.


Baboon
Face of a baboon looking at camera

Still in Chobe, I found the rather wistful eyes of this young baboon impossible to resist!


Monkey
Pale monkey with a dark face

That baboon reminded me of the green vervet monkeys we had met in Bijilo Forest Park in the Gambia a few years previously. They are very (some would say too) accustomed to people and will happily feed from your hands, although this is discouraged.


Cheetah
Cheetah looking up

I met this beautiful cheetah with glowing eyes in Namibia, at the AfriCat Foundation at Okonjima Lodge. The foundation is devoted to the conservation of cheetahs and leopards. They rescue animals that have been trapped by local farmers; and educate visitors and local people about the animals they protect.


Elephant
Elephant eating leaves

I can’t resist finishing with another elephant, this time an Asian one. This is Mohn, one of the elephants being cared for at MandaLao near Luang Prabang in Laos. She was rescued from a tourist riding camp and reunited here with her mother Mahn. Can’t you just see the contentment in her eyes as she enjoys munching on the leaves from the trees we passed on our walk with her?

I visited Laos in 2020, Botswana and Kenya in 2018, the Gambia in 2014 and Namibia in 2004

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