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.
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 languageMartin Buber
For Tina’s Lens Artists Challenge this week I have hunted through my archives for more images of animals and their expressive eyes.
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?
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.
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!
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.
Still in Chobe, I found the rather wistful eyes of this young baboon impossible to resist!
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.
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.
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
Never will I think of animal eyes as I had before, Sarah, thanks to your insightful post.
Ah, that’s lovely to hear Annie 😊
GREAT selections. I wish we could talk to animals better than we do!
Thank you John 🙂 We need a Dr Dolittle perhaps?!
These are certainly the most amazing animals closeups I have ever seen. Very lovely 🙂
You’re very kind but there are far better shots to be found, by professional photographers and many amateurs with longer zooms than mine! Still, I really appreciate your compliment 😊
Beautiful gallery and great interpretation of the theme.
Thanks so much Suzanne 😊
Stunning animal photos! I love seeing these animals at the San Diego Zoo (not all zoos are the same), but I am envious of you seeing them in the wild. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Dawn 🙂 I’m always slightly conflicted about zoos. I love to see animals and they offer wonderful opportunities to do so, especially for people who can’t afford to travel as much as we do or are restricted for other reasons. As a small child I lived near London Zoo and saw many of the animals from outside, passing by on walks, as well as occasional visits inside. Today we would never condone the conditions the animals lived in back then, but I’m sure that contributed to my love of wild animals. And you are right to say that not all zoos are the same and some are excellent. I know San Diego has a fantastic reputation for caring for the animals, as does Jersey Zoo that we visited a few years ago. But these days I steer clear of places that confine the animals too much and that don’t have an ethical research programme.
I am sure animals have more feelings than we give them credit for.
I think you could well be right, and I also think (hope?) we are starting to learn more about their emotions and respect them a bit better.
A wonderful take on, Sarah. Emotional. I always love the cheetah, I feel like they are crying with those lines.
Thanks so much 😊 I know exactly what you mean about those eye lines!
Such incredible captures of so many animals! I love the giraffes espeically
Aw, thank you 😊 So glad you like them. I have a soft spot for the giraffes and it was brilliant to get so close them at Giraffe Manor, but the elephants remain my favourites 🐘🐘
Aletta - nowathome
Stunning photos of the eyes!
Thank you so much 😊
This is a great post Sarah. Thank you for the opportunity to see all these animals’ eyes from closeby. How will we know what animals think (and if they have thoughts indeed), but when I look at your photos, I want to say … they surely do, just look into their eyes! No favourites today – they are all great!
Thank you 🙂 I’m glad you liked them all!
Wonderful eye photos Sarah 🙂
Thank you Brian, I appreciate the feedback 😀
The cheetah is the standout for me, Sarah, but I love the way you’ve brought this together. Windows to the soul.
Thank you Jo 🙂 I love the big cats (joint favourites with elephants I think!) That’s an old photo, scanned from a slide, so I’m glad it still works for you 🙂
I have no doubt that animals mourn Sarah – we humans have an inflated idea of our emotions versus those of the birds and animals. Nat Geo has shown many examples of birds mourning their dead, especially crows, and we know elephants do, as well as gorillas, and yes, I’ve seen examples of whales and dolphins doing the same. We are only just beginning to understand how well other species communicate with and care for each other. Your images are wonderful and illustrate some of their emotions beautifully. Personally after our safari my thought was that if every human could go on a safari we’d have a far more peaceful and empathetic world.
I’m sure you’re right about safaris Tina – but then, I think that about travelling more broadly too, don’t you?
Wonderful eye collection Sarah. I like that you included enough of the animals so we could get a better sense of them. Very expressive.
Thank you Anne 🙂 I’m glad you liked that but to be honest it’s born of necessity as for the most part my zoom, at least when handheld, wouldn’t allow of a tighter crop!
That monkey was definitely eyeing up your bags to suss out whether you had any food. Actually several of these look like they have intentions of one sort or another lurking beneath the mournfulness. Like for instance…..”one false move and you’re a goner”….for instance
Haha yes – when I sat on a log at Bijilo, one of the monkeys came and sat on my lap and starting rifling through my pockets 😆
Mike and Kellye Hefner
A wonderful collection of eyes. Love, love, love looking at animals! Thanks, Sarah.
Thanks, glad you liked them!
Beautiful images! Love how you captured their expressions.
Thank you Amy 😊
You have really captured some expressive eyes Sarah. Most animals do seem to have mournful eyes I think
Thank Alison and yes, I think you’re right about their eyes looking mournful in many cases. It’s the opposite to the smiling dolphin mouth Yvonne mentions below and like that can fool us into thinking we know how they’re feeling.
It’s how my dogs look at me everyday
philosophy through photography
Of all the collections I love giraffe’s eyes and your narration along with the click of giraffes mourning.
I think this comment is meant for Sarah 😃
philosophy through photography
Thank you Alison for bringing this to my knowledge.
No more I claim that age is only a number.
Looks like my fingers must have selected ‘Reply BUTTON’ in your comment box instead of the regular comment box.
I request Sarah to be patient with me.
I know she is kind and understanding 😃
Thanks to both of you.
Sorry – I know your article was about eyes (and you have captured some wonderful expressions) but I posted my previous after just reading the first item about the apparently grieving giraffes.
Of course, I completely understood that 🙂
There are two recent incidents of cetaceans showing this grieving process in 2028 and 2019. A female orca was seen carrying her dead calf for weeks and the same happened to a dolphin off New Zealand. It is unfortunate that the shape of their mouths make them appear to be smiling. Maybe folks would not pay good money to see performing dolphins if their mouths turned down instead of up?
Yes, I’ve read of cetacean examples Yvonne. And you are right about the dolphin mouth – people could wrongly assume they are enjoying themselves because of their expression when the opposite is true 🙁
Beautiful animal pictures. If only we knew for certain what their expressions tell us.
Yes – we tend to make assumptions based on human expressions but of course that doesn’t really tell us anything!
Thank you Margaret 😊