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Long necks make giraffes 30 times more likely to be struck by lightning than humans

Tuesday, 19/12/2023, 17:21 (GMT+7)

Giraffes' height and body structure make them more easily prone to fatal lightning strikes than humans 30 times.

Numerous reports have documented incidents of giraffes being struck and killed by lightning. 

Between 1996 and 2010, only five well-documented cases were recorded, resulting in a mortality rate of approximately 0.003 deaths per thousand giraffes per year. 

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Giraffes, with their remarkable long necks, are known to be more susceptible to lightning strikes. Image Credit: Getty

However, since there are only 140,000 of the species in the world at this time, this is thirty times higher than the corresponding human death rate.

Height as a risk factor

Giraffes' towering stature plays a significant role in their increased vulnerability to lightning strikes. 

Lightning bolts tend to target tall objects, especially in open areas, making giraffes potential lightning rods during thunderstorms. 

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Giraffes' tall stature increases their vulnerability to lightning strikes, as lightning bolts target tall objects. Image Credit: iStock

The height advantage that allows them to reach tree foliage for feeding also puts them at a higher risk of fatal electrocution. 

While there is limited research on giraffes' behavioral responses to thunderstorms, some observations suggest potential adaptations to reduce their susceptibility to lightning strikes. 

Seeking shelter during a thunderstorm or swiftly moving to densely vegetated areas are potential strategies to mitigate the risk. 

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Giraffes are 30 times more likely to be hit by lightning than humans, Image Credit: Getty

However, these behaviors have not been consistently confirmed through scientific studies.

In addition to the direct threat of lightning strikes, giraffes face another disadvantage compared to humans when it comes to thunderstorms. 

As animals with four legs, they are more vulnerable to ground current—an electrical discharge that spreads along the ground after a lightning strike. 

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Giraffes, with their four-leg structure, are more vulnerable to ground currents, a dangerous electrical discharge after lightning strikes. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The spread of ground currents is facilitated by the extended leg structure of giraffes, making it easier for the electrical energy to travel through their bodies. 

Ground current poses a significant risk, causing a considerable number of lightning-related deaths and injuries in both animals and humans.