Chapter four - The sparring match

by ZSL on

Chapter four - The sparring match

Nuru the giraffe

There she is!

It’s Mum.

Galloping across the savannah, her mighty legs propel her through the giant herd of strange cat-tle. 

What a shock! What were those animals? The herd are nervous and tired. They munch on leaves while the calves take a nap. Standing, they curl their necks onto their backs, snoozing for a few minutes at a time.

Now reunited the herd head back to the plains - surely even with the pride of lions it has to be safer there. Trudging back they start to pick up their hoofed followers again as, bit by bit, the landscape becomes more familiar. The yellow grass returns and the strips of bare ground and fast moving boxes fall further and further behind them

Even though she can go a whole month without water, Nuru is thirsty. They head for the nearest watering hole. 

Gleaming in the sunlight and surrounded by zebras, wildebeest and a group of giant elephants with one baby flapping its ears and splashing through the water, the herd are relieved to drink.

Once again they have to brave lowering their heads to the floor. Nuru stands watch while the others spread their legs and bend down into the water, slurping up its refreshing coolness. 

As Nuru slurps up cool, slightly muddy water from the watering hole, she sees a face staring at her from across the pool. 

It’s another giraffe. One she doesn’t recognise.

Another appears right behind him.

They’re males - much bigger than even she is - and as soon as they spot Nuru’s herd they move in closer. They stare haughtily across at them, sizing them up, and begin to make a deep rumble of interest in their throats.

Suddenly, it happens. One makes a great arc of his neck, bringing it quickly towards the neck of his rival. 


It makes an almighty crash, like a clap of thunder. The zebra and antelopes raise their heads from their chewing, watching the spectacle.

The two males stand shoulder-to-shoulder, hooves throwing up dust as they strain to stay stand-ing. Their necks swing around like branches in a storm, their heads slamming into each other’s necks. 


It’s over. Both combatants look a little dazed, flicking their ears to clear the dust from their eyes. The biggest has won.

He starts to follow around the herd for the next few days as they continue on their journey. Nuz-zling at Mum who doesn’t seem to mind.

The group have started to attract more zebras and antelope as well - more than before. And with the addition of a family of warthogs trundling along after them, they’ve become quite a specta-cle. It seems more and more animals are having to move to this part of the savannah.

A few of the moving boxes have moved in too - with the strange upright animals travelling on them! Some come by every day or so - like they’re just checking in. Others get very excited when they see Nuru and the herd, stopping and staring for ages at a time before disappearing off again in a small cloud of dust. Even though nothing else happens, the giraffes still keep a safe distance - they’re not taking any chances.

But maybe, just maybe, the strange animals might not be so bad after all.

Select a blog

Careers at ZSL

Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.

Nature at the heart of global decision making

At ZSL, a key area of our work is the employment of Nature-based Solutions – an approach which both adapt to and mitigates the impacts of climate change. These Solutions, which include habitat protection and restoration, are low-cost yet high-impact, and provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife. We ensure that biodiversity recovery is at the heart of nature-based solutions. 

ZSL London Zoo

A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!


We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.


From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.


A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.

Artefact of the month

Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.

Wild About

Read testimonials from our Members and extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.

Asia Conservation Programme

ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation

An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.