Giraffe (genus Giraffa), are any of four species in the genus Giraffa of long-necked cud-chewing hoofed mammals of Africa, are the tallest of all land mammals. With a distinctly long necks and tongues giraffes are one of the easiest mammals to identify at first sight. The famous long necks are cause for a complex blood circulatory system that is still not fully understood by zoologists. These beautiful animals are native to Africa but have lost their ground as human expansion and population growth has continued.
Giraffes are natives of Africa, especially the sub-Saharan regions. The majority of the population giraffes live in savannas, grasslands, and open forests. They are partly nomadic, in that they travel when needed in chase of food. Even though their height leads people to think giraffes would be best fitted to live in thick forests that provides them with plenty food from trees, this is not correct. Thick forests and trees come with a variety of branches and other things that block the giraffe’s ability to move freely.
The home range for a giraffe is between 8 and 50 square miles. The range of one colony of giraffes sometimes can overlap with another’s. As human activity causes shrinkage of the natural habitat of giraffes, the home ranges of giraffes tends to shrink as well. Smaller home ranges equal to less food sources for these beautiful mammals.
There are 4 distinct species of giraffes found in Africa. Two of these species also have two and three subspecies respectively. The four main species and the correlating subspecies with their population counts are:
- Masai giraffe (32,500)
- Reticulated giraffe (8,700)
- Southern giraffe (52,500)
- Angolan giraffe (13,050)
- South African giraffe (39,000)
- Northern giraffe (5,195)
- Kordofan giraffe (2,000)
- Nubian giraffe (2,645)
- West African giraffe (550)
Due to their very long necks, Giraffes are able to feed on the foliage of trees not accessible to other herbivores. Their long prehensile tongue is used to pull pods and leaves into the mouth, where the spatulate incisor teeth strip them from the stems. Their most preferred choice of nutrition is the acacia tree.
The giraffes are able to gain hydration by consuming the moisture from leaves. This helps giraffes go several days without water or need for a water supply.
The tallest of living land mammals, giraffes or Giraffa Camelopardalis, can grow to be 5.7 meters or 18.7 feet tall. The average male can weigh up to 1,930 kilograms (4,254 pounds), while the females weigh about 1,180 kilograms (2,601 pounds).
The color of giraffes’ change by species and region they are found in but most tend to be tan or orangish brown with light patches on females and brown patches on males. Both genders of giraffes have short horns on the tops of their heads covered in skin.
A full-grown giraffes tail can be up to a meter in length and has a long black tuft on the end. Other recognizable characteristic of giraffes is a short black mane, and the black slopes downward on the hindquarters. The neck is supported by large muscles connected to the long spines on the vertebrae of the upper back.
During a gallop the giraffe pushes off the ground with its hindlegs, and land on the front legs. However, no two hooves touch the ground at the same time. The balance is maintained by neck flexes. A giraffe can maintain 50 kilometers per hour speed for several kilometers but can only reach 60 kilometers per hour for short distances to avoid predators.
Giraffe’s Behavior & Life Cycle
Giraffes are one of the few nonterritorial animals of the kingdom. The animals are gregarious and have excellent eyesight. They can identify predators a kilometer away, and for an unknown reason when a giraffe stares at a lion a long distance away all other giraffes in the group look in the same direction.
Social animals by nature, giraffes travel in large unorganized herds. Youngsters of the herd hang around with few adult females while the males are nomadic between herds of females. The right to mate with females of the herds is done through fights between males and is a sight to see.
The gestation period for a giraffe is 457 days, and there is no clear mating season. At birth the calf weighs about 100 kilograms and only about 52% of the calves reach maturity. The calves suckle for 18-22 months and reach full maturity 4-5 years. The average lifespan of a giraffe sits at 25 years and not many animals found in the wild outlive that average.