Giraffe Kills Filmmaker in South Africa With a Swing of Its Neck

An award-winning filmmaker died while filming a feature at a game preserve near Johannesburg, South Africa.

Filmmaker Carlos Carvalho was looking through his camera eyepiece when a giraffe he was filming suddenly swung its neck and struck him in the head, knocking him off his feet.

He was flown to Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg and died that evening from injuries he suffered during the encounter.

Carvalho, 47, was filming wildlife at the Glen Afric Country Lodge in Hartbeespoort, outside of Johannesburg when the incident occurred.

"When Carlos was standing in front of the giraffe, the animal spread its legs, bent its neck and swung its head at Carlos," said Richard Booker, whose family owns the lodge. "He did nothing wrong."

The blow came from a giraffe on the property named Gerald.

"We started shooting close-ups of its body and its feet," Film crew member Dirkus Van Der Merwe added. "Then while Carlos was looking through the camera eyepiece, Gerald swung his neck and hit him against his head. It came out of nowhere and Carlos didn't even see it coming. He wasn't aware of the danger."

However, a representative from the lodge said the following in a statement:

"From all accounts, it is alleged that the cameraman decided, on his own accord, to obtain additional video footage of the giraffe. The cameraman ignored all safety briefings and protocols by venturing too close to the giraffe, who swung his head as giraffes naturally do, making contact with the cameraman and knocking him off his feet. Unfortunately, the blow proved to be fatal."


Carlos Carvalho. The featured image above is a photo of Gerald, the giraffe that killed Carvalho. CBC News

Award-winning filmmaker

Carvalho garnered a great deal of respect in the film industry. He won the Silver Lion award at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival for a public service announcement for Childline. He also took the best cinematography prize in 2014 at the African Movie Academy Awards for his work on "The Forgotten Kingdom." This piece also won him the Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography at the 14th annual Woodstock Film Festival Maverick Awards Gala in New York. He was a multi-talented artist who won many other awards during his career.

Andrew Mudge, writer and director of The Forgotten Kingdom, wrote that he was "absolutely gutted" to learn of Carvalho's death. He described his friend as "one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and talented" people he'd ever worked with.

"He had a quiet wisdom to him, and when he listened—which he always did—he did so with his whole being," Mudge said. "My heart goes out to his wife and kids. Thank you, Carlos. You made us better filmmakers, and better people. One of the luckiest breaks I've had in life was being able to call you my friend."

The Glen Afric staff also expressed their condolences, extending their thoughts to Carvalho's friends and family.

Giraffe won't be euthanized

The lodge has announced the giraffe will not be put down, saying the animal wasn't to blame.

"I don't consider him to be a dangerous animal," a representative said.

While giraffe attacks are rare, they have occurred. A giraffe trampled a man to death on a South African game reserve in 2015. Also in South Africa, in 2010, a woman died after a giraffe kicked her.

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