Rothschild's giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) is a subspecies of the giraffe. It is one of the most endangered distinct populations of giraffe, with 1,399 mature individuals estimated in the wild in 2018.
The Rothschild's giraffe is easily distinguishable from other subspecies. The most obvious sign is in the coloring of the coat or pelt. It has large dark patches that usually have complete margins, but may also have sharp edges. The dark spots may also have paler radiating lines or streaks within them. Spotting rarely reaches below the hocks and almost never to the hooves. Another distinguishing feature of Rothschild's giraffe, although harder to spot, is the number of ossicones on the head. This is the only Giraffa phenotype to be born with five ossicones. Two of these are the larger and more obvious ones at the top of the head, which are common to all giraffes. The third ossicone can often be seen in the center of the giraffe's forehead, and the other two are behind each ear. Males are larger than females by a few hundred pounds and their two largest ossicones are usually bald from sparring. They also usually tend to be darker in color than the females.
Rothschild's giraffes are found in Uganda and Kenya. They are possibly regionally extinct from South Sudan and northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. They live in savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands.
Rothschild's giraffes live in small herds, with males and females (and their calves) living separately, only mixing for mating. They are tolerant of other animals around them as long as they don't feel threatened. For the most part, they are very friendly, but the males are known to engage in fights for mating. Male giraffes use their necks as weapons in combat, a behavior known as "necking". Necking is used to establish dominance and males that win necking bouts have greater reproductive success. Giraffes usually feed during the first and last hours of the day. Between these hours, they mostly stand and ruminate. Rumination is the dominant activity during the night when it is mostly done lying down. When stressed, giraffes may chew on large branches, stripping them of bark.
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. Rothschild's giraffes breed at any time of the year. After the gestation period of 14 to 16 months, females typically give birth to a single calf.
The main threats to Rothschild's giraffes include habitat loss and direct killing for bushmeat markets. As of 2018, this subspecies is classified as near threatened. Very few locations are left where Rothschild's giraffes can be seen in the wild, with notable spots being Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya and Murchison Falls National Park in northern Uganda.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Rothschild's giraffe is 1,399 mature individuals. Currently, this subspecies is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are increasing.
Giraffes have a great effect on the trees that they feed on, delaying the growth of young trees for some years and giving "waistlines" to too tall trees. In addition, when spotting a predator, they can serve as a warning system for other nearby animals.