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Tall tales from the veld



You’re never too old to learn

Writer Jim Freeman recently visited Pumba Private Game Reserve and Spa outside Grahamstown.

You won’t believe this but two of the prime causes of death among giraffe are lightning and snakebite.

I spend a lot of time in the bush, especially in the Eastern Cape, and any visit to a game reserve there invariably entails bumping into someone I know or someone with whom I have friends in common.

This held true on a trip to Pumba Private Game Reserve and Spa outside Grahamstown recently and, minutes after meeting senior guide Headman Gwide (who’d spent 20 years on Shamwari before joining his present employers two years ago), we began chatting about Geran Ellish.


Geran is a specialist trail guide I met at Shamwari several years back and a fount of knowledge on just about anything related to the bush.

It was he who told me that acacia trees (Senegalia, as we are obliged to call them now after the Aussies expropriated the name) communicated by releasing pheromones when browsing giraffe are in the area.

This induces them to change the flavour profile of the leaves that are the favoured sustenance of the giraffe in an effort to get them to dine elsewhere.

The pheromones, however, drift downwind and that’s why giraffe move upwind from tree to tree.

News to me – as it was for the family of Germans from Frankfurt-am-Main and my partner Rose-mariè who were along for an early morning game drive – was the giraffe’s susceptibility to causes of death other than old age and disease (lions try their luck but rarely prevail).

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