A giraffe being transported in South Africa died after hitting its head on an overpass. Two of the tall animals were inside an open-topped truck container traveling on Pretoria’s N1 highway. Their route was highlighted by on social media by other drivers.
— Wingate Road Runners (@wingaterunners) July 31, 2014
The trip was never smooth, witnesses reported, even before the calamity killed the giraffe. Earlier, the animals had been stranded alongside the highway after the truck broke down, Thinus Botha, a witness from Pretoria, told the Los Angeles Times. "Getting stranded next to the highway wasn't their biggest problem of the day," he said.
Botha had just pulled over to take a picture of the unusual sight when the transport arrived at the bridge. He told the Times that there was a “big bang” that was so loud he heard it in his car, even with the windows rolled up.
Another witness, Pabi Moloi, a South African TV and radio presenter, described the incident to Mashable, saying it would haunt her for a long time. She and her cousin were in the car together.
“I whipped out my phone to take pictures of this, since it isn't a very common thing to see in the city. As I was getting shots the truck went under a bridge and suddenly one of the giraffes hit its head HARD on the concrete,” she said. “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!”
Look how low that bridge is and how tall the giraffes are. Who thought this one through? I wish I hadn't seen this. pic.twitter.com/as2jJkIwpv
— Pabi Moloi (@PabiMoloi) July 31, 2014
“That is how loud the impact was from the animal's head smashing into the overhead bridge,” she continued. “We saw in the rear view mirror that the truck had moved to side of the road and had stopped. Only one giraffe was still standing.”
“That sound of a skull being hit and the force with which it threw the [giraffe’s] head forward is something I won't easily forget,” Moloi concluded.
"Blood was coming from its nose and mouth," Botha said.
South Africa's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals went to the scene of the casualty.
“All we can ascertain at this stage is severe head trauma. We are continuing our investigation with the view to possibly lay criminal charges against those responsible,” the SPCA’s Rick Allan told Johannesburg’s Eye Witness News.
The owner told a local reporter that the giraffe had craned its neck when they passed under the bridge, causing it to slam its head into the structure.
— Carla Coetzee (@CarlaCoet) July 31, 2014
But Botha disagreed. He said the animal never lifted its head higher than it was when he took the picture, just before impact, adding, "It seems like he was bound to hit his head at some point."
Regardless of whether the long-necked creature moved its head, the vehicle did not meet the South African Bureau of Standards’ (SABS) specialized codes of practice for transporting giraffes, Allan told eNCA.com. SABS requires giraffes be kept standing to keep their blood circulation going.
“When you are transporting giraffes on an open road, their heads should be covered by a structure which is a specially designed container that looks like a crate,” said Allan.
The deadly incident was not the only one the SPCA was called to on the N1 on Thursday. Just a short distance down the road, a truck carrying about 400 head of cattle lost a tire. The animals were stuck there for over five hours, Eye Witness News reported.