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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nature is the mightiest - are tall giraffes exposed to higher danger ?

Nature is beauty and all too powerful and can shake not only the earth but the psyche and confidence of mankind gets demonstrated once a while.   The powerful earthquake that struck off Indonesia on 11th April 2012 created more waves in many other parts of the World and Chennaites felt the earth shaking not once but twice.  By relating what they understand and what has been read, people started speaking of tsunami and beach was beset with curious onlookers.  Not so surprisingly, the lighthouse, being a very tall structure was the choicest place for photographers of media, who thought they could film tsunami exclusively – as and when it comes !!!!

Nature is all too powerful and natural disaster can rip things apart causing large scale destruction and devastation.  It is not only their magnitude but also the vulnerability of the places that results in huge destruction.   Tremor, Temblor are the other names of earthquake which occurs as a result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves.

In what triggered memories of infamous black Sunday of Dec 2004, powerful earthquake  occurred nearer Aceh Province of Indonesia - the first earthquake had a magnitude of 8.6 and was quickly followed by an 8.2-magnitude aftershock. Unlike the earthquake that triggered the devastating 2004 tsunami in the region, the sea floor moved sideways instead of vertically, meaning it displaced less water and did not send giant waves around the Indian Ocean.  Some reports have it that there was tsunami as picked up by warning buoys but the waves were just below 1 meter [3.3 feet]," in sharp contrast to the December 2004 tsunami, when waves reached heights of nearly ten stories.

On a day after such earth shattering event, nothing on the powerful hit of Kieron Pollard or Australians coming back strongly to win the Bridgetown Test. Nothing on Cricket !!

There is another natural phenomenon which can be termed as one of the most beautiful displays in nature. It is also one of the most deadly natural phenomena known to man.   It is the ‘Lightning’  an atmospheric electrical discharge (spark) accompanied by thunder, usually associated and produced by cumulonimbus clouds, but also occurring during volcanic eruptions or in dust storms.  When a thunderstorm threatens, it is advised to get inside a home or large building, or inside an all-metal (not convertible) vehicle.  One should not  stand underneath a natural lighting rod such as a tall, isolated tree

But are not Giraffes, which are the tallest of the animals naturally at a higher risk, when lightning threatens.  When a bolt strikes, the instinct is to duck, and the  poor giraffe standing about 5m tall with  its elongated neck and lanky legs, can it duck and escape inviting the wrath ?    As it stands taller amongst all other animals, is it exposed to higher probability of getting hit by a lightning ? 

A year of so ago, thunderstorm killed Hamley, that featured in BBC serial – the incident took place  at Glen Afric reserve in South Africa.  Though it was a natural disaster, it was heartbreaking for the crew and other associated with it.  Hamley was reportedly a gentle, playful and charming animal. Hamley had been featured in the ITV show Wild at Heart for five years. The show is about a British vet who immigrates to South Africa with his family to start a game reserve.  He is not the only animal, in 1996, lightning reportedly struck and killed a 5.5-metre tall giraffe that was standing on a hill in the Rhino and Lion Reserve in northeastern South Africa. A year later, its mate was struck and killed by lightning – and whatever gets reported is that of animals in Zoo or in Sanctuaries – more might die and such deaths might go unreported or unrecorded in the wild.  There are divergent views that it is not just the giraffe's height, but the greater distance between its legs that make it more likely for electric current to flow to the animal when lightning strikes.

Elsewhere in an incident in Scotland  16 bullocks were killed after a lightning strike. Reports suggested the animals were huddled together when one was hit, and the current was conducted through a puddle to the others.  Often we read about cattle dying in lightning discharge.

So, "If you're in the wrong place at the wrong time you're susceptible -  it is not the tall giraffe or a smaller animal that matters, perhaps is the moral.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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