Giraffe

Giraffe

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Giraffa camelopardalis
Population size
97,562
Life Span
28 yrs
TOP SPEED
48 km/h
WEIGHT
0.5-2 t
HEIGHT
4-4.7 m
LENGTH
3.8-4.7 m

Giraffes are the world’s tallest living animals, easily identified due to their exclusively long neck. The legs of giraffes are long and solid. The hind legs are shorter than the front legs. The eyes are quite large, ears are medium-sized and the muzzle is long. The short mane stands upright. The tail is long and thin with a dark tassel of hair at the tip. Giraffes have short and sandy colored coat. They have pelage markings of different shape, colored various shades of brown. This animal has bony horns or ossicones, placed on the top of its head. Normally, horns of giraffes are medium-sized in both males and females. Male giraffes can sometimes grow another pair of horns behind the first pair. Females are identified by thin and tufted ossicones while males usually have thick horns with the hair, smoothed due to sparring.

Distibution

The area of their distribution is segmental, stretching southwards from Chad to South Africa and eastwards - from Niger to Somalia. Giraffes are frequently found in areas with Acacia trees. The most suitable habitat for these animals is dry, arid land. They inhabit grasslands, savannas and open woodlands.

Giraffe habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Due to their large size, these animals spend a lot of time eating, usually in mornings and evenings. They rest standing up during the night. In the heat of the day, they will rest in shady areas, regurgitating the food and then ingesting it again. Female giraffes and their young gather into small herds, keeping constantly together, in order to protect the calves from predators. Males prefer leading solitary lives, travelling long distances to find a fertile female. When two rival males encounter each other, they start "necking" - bumping heads and interlocking the necks to defend their mating rights and set up a dominance hierarchy. The winner of the encounter will be allowed to mate with local females.

Diet and Nutrition

Giraffes are herbivorous(folivorous) with their diet, mainly consisting of acacia trees. Being browsers, these animals will also consume flowers, fruits, buds and wild apricots. In addition, they love eating seeds and fresh grass after the rain. They rarely drink, obtaining about 70% of the required moisture from food.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
any time of the year
PREGNANCY DURATION
13-15 months
BABY CARRYING
1 calf
INDEPENDENT AGE
15 months
FEMALE NAME
cow
MALE NAME
bull
BABY NAME
calf

Giraffes have polygynous mating system. Giraffes are non-territorial and mate all year round. Usually, males engage in combats, after which the winner gets right to mate with receptive females whenever and wherever it finds them. Normally, gestation period lasts 13-15 months, yielding a single baby, rarely - twins. The female gives birth in a calving area, which she further uses throughout her life. Newborn calf is able to walk in just an hour after birth and can run within 24 hours after birth. Weaning occurs at 1 year old. Then, at the age of 15 months, the young become fully independent. While sexual maturity is reached at 4-5 years old, males start mating no sooner than 8 years of age.

Population

Population threats

Hunting and poaching are among major threats to giraffes’ population: these animals attract hunters for their meat, skin and tail. Another concern is the loss of their natural habitat due to human activities.

Population number

The overall number of giraffe population is recently estimated to be about 97,562 individuals and is presently decreasing. On the IUCN Red List, giraffe is classified as Vulnerable (VU).

Ecological niche

Due to being the world’s tallest animals, giraffes play important role in the ecosystem of their range. Thus, they are able to eat leaves too high for many animals to reach. In addition, when spotting a predator, they can serve as a warning system for other nearby animals.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Giraffes sleep from 10 minutes to 2 hours a day, which is one of the shortest sleeping requirements among mammals.
  • They rest, standing or lying with open eyes for 3-5 minutes per one time.
  • The heart of this animal is about 61 cms (2 ft) long and weighs up to 10 Kgs (22 lbs). To keep blood flow to the brain, the heart of giraffe has to generate twice as much blood pressure as for average large mammal.
  • These animals are generally silent; however, they frequently emit moo sound when in distress. In addition, they give out snorting, bellowing or grunting sound when alarmed or encountering a lion.
  • They usually drink water in pairs, stooping down to the water's surface: while one of them drinks, the other one is able to watch after predators.
  • In order to drink, giraffe has to spread its front legs apart at an angle of about 45 degrees, and lower its head, reaching ground level. This is truly a challenging task for this animal!

References

1. Giraffe Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_giraffe
2. Giraffe on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/9194/0

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