News of the death of a giraffe while being transported on the N1 north, after hitting its head on the Garsfontein bridge, has gone viral and has made international news.
At least two people witnessed it – TV personality Pabi Moloi and Thinus Botha – and both were taking pictures just before the animal hit the bridge on Thursday.
While it was unclear whether the vehicle’s driver had immediately noticed the incident, the giraffe was taken to a veterinary clinic where it died. The other giraffe is resting at a wildlife veterinary clinic.
They posted their pictures online.
The incident has elicited hundreds of angry tweets from animal lovers condemning the behaviour of the owner and transporter.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) said on Friday morning they were concerned about the well-being of the other animal, which is now being cared for at a veterinary clinic.
“We will not allow the giraffe to be taken away from the vet in open transport again. We may have to get a court order if the transporter insists on this. The difficulty is that we do not have the facilities to keep a giraffe. We will be monitoring the situation very carefully,” said Rick Allan of the NSPCA.
Animals were often translocated from game farms during winter, he said, and he believed that the driver, who had a permit, was transporting the animals to Limpopo.
Allan said the transporter was not co-operating with officials in the investigation, but they were getting statements from witnesses.
“Thereafter we will lay criminal charges under the Animal Protection Act,” he said.
The NSPCA officials were close by when the incident was reported.
“We were busy on the same highway trying to catch people we believe were transporting cattle illegally, so we got there quickly.
“We decided, with the transporter, to take the other giraffe to the vet clinic.”
Allan said the giraffe died due to trauma to the head.
Inspectors were due to interview witnesses and the animals’ owners and transporters on Friday.
“We have been able to trace the owners. So far they have not been co-operative.
“They said they wanted to speak to their lawyers first and hopefully we will be able to interview them during the day.”
The South African Bureau of Standards has published a code for wildlife transport, and open transport with the giraffes’ heads sticking out is not acceptable.
Their heads, said Allan, had been above the vehicle.
The owner, identified as Dirk Boshoff, told The Citizen it was not the first time the animals had been transported in this manner.
He said he had been driving behind the truck carrying the giraffes.
“We drove underneath lots of bridges and everything was fine. The bull craned his neck and hit his head,” he said.
Thinus Botha: A witness, Thinus Botha, who took the picture that caused outrage on social media, said he had been driving next to the truck for about 5km trying to get a snapshot of the giraffes.
“I thought it was not something you see every day, for giraffes to be on the highway, and I thought I should take a picture,” Botha said.
He could not get the right shot so he pulled over on to the side of the road to wait for the truck to come past. A few seconds later one of the giraffes hit the bridge. “It’s really sad,” he said.
Botha, a computer engineer based in Centurion, said a couple of vehicles had hooted for the truck to stop but he was not sure if the driver had heeded the call.
He said the truck appeared to have been rented as it had no company logo on it. It was headed towards Limpopo, Botha said.
Pabi Moloi: Another witness, TV presenter and radio show host Pabi Moloi, said she was driving along the highway with her cousin when she spotted the giraffes at the back of the truck.
“I whipped out my phone to take pictures… As I was getting shots, the truck went under a bridge and suddenly one of the giraffes hit its head hard on the concrete.
“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,” Moloi said.
She tweeted the picture of the giraffes, saying “what a weird and sad thing to witness. That impact was so shocking. Wow”.