In Death Giraffes Circled

Tadpoles Communicating with Observer (Road Crossing at Salt Creek)

Pleasant or not, I write to reveal the behavior of animals using language we humans have ignored or lost adeptness in translating, so that we might begin again to absorb information that has been showering us for thousands of years.  Such rain washes us everyday, purest liquid in clouds above us, below us, all around us.  In relearning the language of animals the purpose is not only for acquiring knowledge, but for creating a transcendent place for humans and animals once again.  It is finding the garden we humans have lost, not the animals, a place where the heart is at ease.

Christine “Krystyna” Jurzykowski wrote an article for Kinship and Animals. The excerpt below focuses on the death of a young male giraffe at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose, Texas, about fifty miles from Flying Hat Ranch where I live.  This is an example of  inter-species communication in an extremely stressful event.


He was six years old.  From birth, he had never really enjoyed good health….We found him fully horizontal one afternoon.  “Quick, prop his head up,” someone said.  A giraffe must have its head elevated or else the buildup of unused pressure causes an aneurysm of the brain.  We spend the next forty-eight hours with this gentle giant on our laps.

After twelve hours, I begin to get into a matched rhythm with his breathing.  I find myself supporting his strength or doubling my energy when his inability to fight dominates.  His head alone feels like a fifty-pound weight on my knees.  The other giraffes form a circle on the other side of the barn.  Slowly they walk, in formation, in silence, heads arching forward and back, as they move in one continuous circle, stopping from time to time for a minute or two.  Their pace seems in harmonious synchronicity to his own ability to fight or surrender.

Ceremony, ritual, a death dance, a communion of higher understanding?  The bull becomes nervous.  The females follow.  We move the bull out in order to regain some quiet.  Something tells us to watch them all at the same time.  The memory is clear: whatever the bull did, the females followed, both on body position and movements, all matching the energy level of the dying giraffe, all in silence, all in loyal reverence and support to his deteriorating condition.

His eyes would catch mine….His gaze would turn away when my own fear surfaced.  The circle, my affirmations, the questions, my cycles of hope and despair lasted another twenty-four hours.  Moments after his death, a group of professors from Texas A&M University arrived for their scheduled site visit.  I met them with tears streaming down my face.


These are worlds colliding, animals and humans, worlds of different genetic makeups and culture.  The collision is not annihilation.  It is mysterious, transcendent, beyond the grasp.  For forty-eight hours, both worlds sought to re-vitalize the giraffe.  The herd circled about the one whose head lay in the lap of humans.  Humans elevated the head to prevent an aneurysm.  From a distance the herd watched and circled, parading in unison, swaying like a chorus, sending waves of motion to their kin to rise up.  In the end, both agents of mercy failed at their work, but the six-year-old giraffe did not die alone for there was the company of man and kin about his death chamber.

Do you need a translation for this event?  For now, no, it is sufficient.

Christine Jurzykowski and Giraffe



Kate Solisti and Michael Tobias (eds.), Kinship with Animals, San Francisco: Council Oaks Books, 2006.

Christine “Krystyna” Jurzykowski, “Be Your Purpose, My Friend,” in Kinship with Animals, cited above.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center website.



Filed under Life in Balance

7 responses to “In Death Giraffes Circled

  1. Anonymous

    Very moving. The giraffe is probably my favorite animal. It seems other worldly, almost. I have been thinking all day about animals and the natural world, how important it is to recognize their inherent value and thus change our approach to them. Perhaps then we can save ourselves, from ourselves.

    • It’s me, Jack,.Teresa. For some reason I popped up as anonymous. 🙂 I want to add, that I am always moved when I read of how animals respond to the illness or impending death of one of theirs. Very sweet and sad.

      • Yes, she wrote a moving article. Since Fossil Rim is only about fifty miles away — 1,500 acres — I’d like to visit it. We’re burning up down here with the heat — 104 degrees F.

        I was blown away by the anthology.

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  3. Koda'sTotems

    Chills and tears upon reading this. Tears of beauty and awe, more than sadness. I’ve been to Fossil Rim and really loved the giraffes there. Such a sad event, surrounded by grace, love and transcendence. Thanks for posting this Jack.

    Kristy (of Koda’s Totems)

  4. Jim Thykeson

    Other than the wonderful documentary; ‘An Urban Elephant’ by Carole Buckely, this article is the most beautiful insight into the anthropomorphic relationship between a animal and a human being. This is a Meryl Streep movie waiting to be made.

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