One thing that has always struck me since starting at safaris, is the way that close to all of the drivers actually care about the animals. I figured, being a zoology major, that I would probably be in the minority, as many of the drivers (the college programmers, at least), have a theatrical background, and the animals would be second to the spieling. But even during my initial training, I saw that this wasn’t true.
Right as I started training, the two baby giraffes, Bolo and Bruehler, had been released on show, and as I (or my trainer) drove around the reserve, he would actually stop talking, start looking around, and be visibly excited about the chance to see the new baby giraffes. Now, you may be thinking, “Right, right, but those are BABY GIRAFFES, and who WOULDN’T want to see them?” And you are kind of right. But shortly after I left safaris in May, I was reminded again of how much the animals you see on a day to day basis mean to these drivers.
Just as May ended, our big male giraffe, Asante, was prepared to be transferred to a zoo in Missouri. Trading animals is common practice among zoos, and this is no strange operation. Asante would be missed by all the drivers, and he is the only giraffe I could positively identify on safari. His coat was distinctly colored, and he was a good 1-2 feet taller than all the other giraffes on the savannah. I usually referred to him as “The Tallest Giraffe in the World”.
Unfortunately, during his transport, or perhaps due to a fall he had stepping out of his crate in Missouri, Asante’s neck became broken. There are no cases of giraffes recovering from this condition. Shortly after the vet decided there was nothing they could do for him, he was euthanized. Within hours, safari drivers were talking about it. I only got to witness the online tributes, but I know there was talk among each other as well. It was like losing a co-worker and friend. One of my close friends called me a day after I told him the news, and told me he ended up crying that night, once he saw a picture of Asante with his neck broken. The picture still brings me to tears. To see something you love be that injured, and to know such a beautiful animal is now gone is not something that sits easily with you.
This post may be belated, but it is still well deserved. Asante, you were a beautiful giraffe, and I was blessed to be able to work with you. As one of my friends said, “…up until recently I got to see the most awesome giraffe every day. It was like seeing a brontosaurus daily.” I will always think of you on the big savannah in the sky.