Giraffe dies after head slams into highway bridge during transport


 A pair of giraffes being transported in a crate approach a low bridge on a freeway on July 31, 2014, in Centurion, South Africa. (Thinus Botha/Barcroft Media /Landov)

It’s one of those pictures that speaks to an unjust world of fast highways, low bridges, and a giraffe that never saw its doom coming. And, fortunately, it’s not a picture that captures the actual violence of the moment.

In South Africa, a large flat-bed truck carrying two blind-folded giraffes was barreling down a highway when it went underneath a highway bridge, slamming at least one of the giraffes into its cement. The owner of the giraffe later confirmed the animal had died.

The witness who captured the photo, which has now been circulated widely on Twitter, granted an interview to the Los Angeles Times. Witness Thinus Botha, of Pretoria, told the paper he had been following the vehicle, saw the giraffes, and thought, “Here’s something you don’t see every day.” So, being a modern individual, he pulled out his phone to take a picture.


(Photo reportedly taken just before accident by Paballo Moloi)

But moments after he took the picture, the truck went underneath the bridge. “There was a loud bang,” he said, adding that he heard it even though his car windows were rolled up. Then he saw the grim aftermath: “Blood was coming from its nose and mouth.”

Another witness said she’s emotionally scarred by what she saw.

“The sound was so loud that my cousin, who was driving, asked me if there was someone shooting because she thought she’d heard a gunshot!” explained Pabi Moloi in an email interview with the Post. “That is how loud the impact was from the animal’s head smashing into the overhead bridge. … We saw in the rearview mirror that the truck had moved to side of the road and had stopped. Only one giraffe was still standing. The sound of a skull being hit and the force with which it threw the giraffes head forward is something I won’t easily forget.”

Officials with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals soon took notice of the accident. “All we can ascertain at this stage is severe head trauma,” spokesperson Rick Allan told Johannesburg’s Eye Witness News. The organization, according to the Los Angeles Times, is investigating “with the view to possibly lay criminal charges against those responsible.”

Terrence McCoy is a foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Cambodia and studied international politics at Columbia University. Follow him on Twitter here.
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