The diversity of environments that giraffe inhabit is not only apparent at the continental scale, but also at the intrapopulation level. I recently returned from a couple weeks in Northwest Namibia where I worked with colleagues to survey giraffe in three different ephemeral river systems that primarily drain into the Skeleton Coast. These tree-lined sandy depressions create arteries of vegetation through an otherwise barren landscape, sustaining life between the infrequent rains. Despite being separated by only a few kilometers - and some formidable mountains - each river system, and the surrounding areas had remarkably different ecological rhythms.
Our surveys began in the areas surrounding the hyper arid Khumib River Catchment, one of the drier and northerly river systems in western Namibia. From the crimson sands of the Marble plains to the barren expanses of the Ensengo and Gomatum, these Martian landscapes provided otherworldly backdrops for giraffe. Perhaps more impressive was the number the thriving Himba communities along these desiccated waterways. I have spent most of the last decade studying giraffe and other megaherbivores in the savannahs of east Africa, so these first few days of surveys in Northwest Namibia gave me a much more visceral appreciation the resilience of these incredible animals and their ability to thrive in some of the harshest landscapes I've experienced.