JOHANNESBURG -- Those responsible for the death of a giraffe whose head struck a South African highway overpass while it was being transported in a truck will likely be prosecuted under animal protection laws, an official said Friday.
The accident on a highway between Pretoria and Johannesburg on Thursday was very unsettling because it could easily have been avoided, said Rick Allan, an animal welfare officer.
"It's just so unnecessary," said Allan, head of the Pretoria area branch of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The group's members were able to respond quickly to the giraffe accident because they were already out on the highway attending to a separate case of cattle stranded because of a truck breakdown, he said.
Prior to the giraffe accident, startled motorists took photographs of the truck, which was carrying two giraffes whose long necks were visible above the sides of the vehicle. The surviving giraffe was taken to a wildlife clinic.
Pabi Moloi, a radio and television presenter, told South African news channel eNCA that she was in a car on the highway and saw the giraffes just before the accident. She tweeted a photo of the giraffes:
"The impact of the giraffe's head on the bridge was so loud that my cousin, who was driving me, asked if someone had been shot," Moloi said. "I saw the giraffe hit its head very hard on the concrete under the bridge and kind of be propelled forward."
Then, Moloi said in the eNCA interview, she saw "the giraffe's head descend into the truck that it was in."
The other giraffe appeared to escape injury by millimeters because it was slightly shorter than the animal that was hit, Moloi said.
The truck earlier broke down for hours on the side of the road, according to South African media.
Animal welfare officers have interviewed witnesses and obtained documents from nature conservation officials who had issued permits for the transport of the giraffes, said Allan, the animal welfare officer. The investigation includes determining where the giraffes were being transported from, as well as their destination, according to Allan.
"We've got all the evidence," he said. All that remains, he said, is "to prove our case."