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caption: Anne Innis Dagg revisist South Africa in 2016. 
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Anne Innis Dagg revisist South Africa in 2016.

The secret lives of giraffes and the woman who studied them

Anne Innis Dagg had a curiosity and love for giraffes that took her to South Africa in the 1950s. Little was known about them in western science at the time.

Dagg would change that.

South Africa, 1956. A small Ford Prefect bounces its way down a rutted out road. The car is crossing an orange grove in the northeast part of the country. And the driver was hoping to find a very unique creature.

“I stopped the car and there, about maybe 100 feet away, were two giraffes,” said Dagg.

caption: Anne Innis Dagg searches for giraffe to study in South Africa in 1956
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Anne Innis Dagg searches for giraffe to study in South Africa in 1956

Dagg went to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild. Nobody had ever done that before — it was all new territory. Western science knew next to nothing about these creatures until Dagg started observing them in the 1950s. Just a small notepad and that trusty Ford Prefect.

Dagg was a tough, straight-talking, trailblazing woman, dedicated to science and social justice. She wrote a book after her time in Africa that is still considered to be the giraffe bible by many in the field.

But there’s a good chance you don’t know her. She was actually in Africa observing wildlife before Jane Goodall. So why has she been forgotten? What is the story of Anne Innis Dagg?

She is the revolutionary biologist and women's rights advocate you’ve most likely never heard of.

caption: Anne Innis Dagg and her trusty Ford Prefect in South Africa in 1956. 
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You can learn even more about her story by watching this documentary film.

THE WILD is a production of KUOW in Seattle in partnership with Chris Morgan Wildlife and Wildlife Media. It is produced by Matt Martin and edited by Jim Gates. It is hosted, produced and written by Chris Morgan. Fact checking by Apryle Craig. Our theme music is by Michael Parker.

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