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.
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 a dry, arid land. They inhabit grasslands, savannas, and open woodlands.
Due to their large size, these animals spend a lot of time eating, usually in the 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, traveling 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.
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.
Giraffes are polygynous, meaning that males mate with multiple females. Usually, males engage in combats, after which the winner gets right to mate with receptive females whenever and wherever it finds them. Normally, the 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. A 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.
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.
The overall number of giraffe population is recently estimated to be about 97,562 individuals and is presently decreasing. On the IUCN Red List, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU).
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.