Giraffa camelopardalis - Giraffa


























Giraffa camelopardalis

Common name

: giraffe


  • Body length: 3.8 - 4.7 m plus 80-100 cm tail
  • Height: female 3.9 - 4.5 m up to the tip of the horns - male 4.7 - 5.3 m up to the tip of the horns
  • Weight: female 700 - 1180 kg - male 1100 - 1930 kg
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years in the wild, 20-27 years in captivity
  • Sexual maturity: female 3 years - male 4 years


Giraffe, scientific name Giraffa camelopardalis of the family Giraffidae, is the tallest land animal. It lives throughout Africa, in the areas south of the Sahara, however, avoiding areas of true desert, swampy areas and rainforests.

One of its peculiarities that makes it survive in very different environments is that it is an animal that manages to stay for long periods without drinking, therefore it can live even hundreds of kilometers away from water without this causing any damage. In any case, its ideal habitat is coniferous woods or the savannah. It does not compete with other animals for food as it feeds mainly on tree leaves.


The first thing that everyone thinks of when thinking about the giraffe is certainly its height, which reaches 5.7 m in the adult male.

It has a spotted coat and the type also varies according to the habitat in which it lives as its function is that of camouflage. Eight subspecies have been classified that differ from each other for the different maculation of the mantle (studies on the different subspecies are in progress and the opinions are quite discordant among the different scholars).

They have a tail up to one meter long that ends with a black tuft that serves to keep insects away.

The most striking part is certainly the neck, on average 2.5 m long, equipped with 7 vertebrae, as in most mammals, only in this animal they are particularly elongated and wide. In view of the fact that the giraffe's heart has to work a lot to get the blood to the head, the arteries in the neck are equipped with special valves that reduce the pressure when it lowers the head to avoid damage to the brain.

The legs of the giraffe are up to 2m long and are muscular and powerful. Each has a split (split) hoof formed by the third and fourth toes while the other three toes are much smaller. When it runs it appears clumsy and awkward due to the neck that goes back and forth but it is an animal not to be underestimated in fact it can reach speeds of 55-60 km / h and maintain this speed for considerable distances.

The head is provided with horns that end with a rounded tip which are nothing more than the extension of the skull. Generally in females the horns are thin while in males they are more robust.

A peculiarity is the blue tongue up to 45 cm long which is used together with the upper lip to tear the vegetation it eats.


The giraffe is an animal that typically lives in small groups of 10-20 individuals although this does not mean that the group is the basis of its social form. In fact it is a very individual animal and gathers together with other individuals only to have a better chance of escaping predators. Switch from one group to another with ease. There are no rules for how a group should be formed (all female, all male, male and female, etc.): all combinations are fine. The only real bond that exists between giraffes is that of the mother with her young.

Generally he does not face fights, but given his height he can usually see any dangers from afar and prefers to escape.

They feed in the morning and in the evening and at night they sleep standing up to better escape predators. The resting position means that the head is placed between the hind legs by making a large arch around the neck. They rarely lie down. During the rest they keep their eyes half closed and their ears always attentive.


Giraffes are thought to be dumb animals as they are not often heard making sounds. In reality they communicate with each other through grunts, whistles, shouts, hisses, each sound with a precise meaning: when there is a danger it grunts or snorts to warn the others of the danger; a mother whistles to call the baby or lowers when they do not see him. Babies emit bleating or meowing sounds while males emit a cough-like sound when courting a female in heat.

An aspect not to be underestimated in communication is that giraffes communicate also thanks to their height, in fact the high view allows the different specimens to always be in contact with each other thanks to their acute eyesight.


The giraffe feeds on leaves, flowers, pods and fruit of a large number of plant species: Acacia senegal, Mimosa pudica, Combretum micranthum, Prunus armeniaca even if their main food is the Acacia.

It is the animal par excellence that, given its height, the most comfortable food for it to eat is found in trees. The long legs prevent it from grazing and drinking is a big problem in fact to do so it must spread the front legs and lower the head to the ground (see video below).

During the day the giraffe feeds while at night it ruminates, i.e. regurgitates the ingested food to chew it and then swallow it again. It is in fact a ruminant.

It has been observed that the male usually prefers to stretch out to graze on the treetops while the female prefers to feed in the lower branches (see video on the side).

They can eat up to 65 kg of vegetables a day even if in poor areas, they can survive even on 7 kg of food a day.


Generally the mating takes place during the rainy period so that the subsequent births take place in the dry months (May - August).

Fights between giraffe males for the attention of a female in heat are not uncommon. During the fight, the two giraffes walk one next to the other and give each other powerful head with their horns, hitting the opponent in the hips or neck. If a blow is particularly strong it can cause serious damage to the opponent (see video on the side).

After mating the male leaves and the female usually joins a group and will remain there for the duration of the pregnancy.

Lagiraffa has a gestation that lasts about 450 days (15 months) and after this period a small 2 m tall and weighing 50-55 kg is born (twin births are rare). The female at the time of giving birth detaches from the group, choose a quiet and safe place and until the baby has reached two weeks of life he will not rejoin the group. Usually she gives birth standing up while walking and the baby's life begins with a powerful fall from a height of 2 meters. After about 15-20 minutes the baby is able to get up and take the first uncertain steps and starts sucking the milk from the mother.

When the mother with the little one reunites with the group, the mother can resume moving and moving as all the little ones are entrusted to a sort of nursery that allows mothers to be able to go away to go in search of food and drink. In fact, in this nursery the different mothers take turns in the care and custody of the little ones.

Weaning takes place on average around 12-16 months and young females generally remain within the mother's herd while males tend to be solitary until they find their herd.

Males reach sexual maturity at 3 - 4 years but only one year later they are sexually mature even if in fact they begin to reproduce not before reaching seven years of age. Young giraffes reach sexual maturity at the age of 3-4.


Lions, leopards and hyenas are the main predators of the giraffe. Crocodiles have also been observed to become treacherous when giraffes approach the banks to drink. In any case, predators can only get the better of sick, old or young animals as an adult and healthy individual can keep up with his predators by unleashing powerful kicks that can break through a skull without any problem.


There Giraffa camelopardalis is classified in the IUNC Red list among animals at low risk of extinction LEAST CONCERN (LC): about 100,000 specimens have been estimated, although recent surveys indicate a certain decline.

Populations in southern Africa are generally more abundant while those in the north are slowly decreasing due to habitat degradation and poaching.


A peculiarity of these mammals is that they are a real nest of ticks that are removed from them by small birds (Buphagus africanus) that rest on their skin and dine with great taste thus freeing the skin from these annoying parasites (see video below): there is therefore a mutual advantage between the giraffe and the Buphagus.

Giraffes are a great attraction for zoos and wildlife parks.

At one time they were killed for their flesh and from their skin they made bridles, whips, straps and even musical instruments.


The term giraffe comes from the Arabic and probably from the word xirapha which means "one who walks very fast".

Reticulated giraffe

The reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata), also known as the Somali giraffe, is a subspecies of giraffe native to the Horn of Africa. It lives in Somalia, southern Ethiopia, and northern Kenya. [2] There are approximately 8,500 individuals living in the wild. [2] The reticulated giraffe was described and given its binomial name by British zoologist William Edward de Winton in 1899, however the IUCN currently recognizes only one species of giraffe with nine subspecies.

Reticulated giraffes can interbreed with other giraffe species in captivity or if they come into contact with populations of other species in the wild.

Together with the Rothschild's giraffe, it is by far the giraffe that is most commonly seen in zoos. [3] Its coat consists of large, polygonal, liver-colored spots outlined by a network of bright-white lines. The blocks may sometimes appear deep red and may also cover the legs. Giraffes are the tallest mammals in the world. [4]


Giraffa camelopardalis

It is the world’s tallest land mammal and the largest ruminant

How are they recognized?

Giraffes are the world’s tallest land mammal. Males (called bulls) grow up to 5,3 m and weight 1,200 kg on average. Females (called cows) are smaller, they grow up to 4,3 m and weight 830 kg on average.

Giraffes have a steeply sloping back from the shoulders to the rump, and a long tail with a black tuft at the end to whisk away flies and other flying insects. Their legs are also long.

They have a very long neck with a short and upstanding mane. It is made up of seven cervical vertebrae, as humans but they are larger and bound together with ball-and-socket joints for improved flexibility. With the aid of its long neck, giraffes are able to exploit a band of foliage beyond the reach of all other terrestrial browsers, except for elephants.

They present horn-like protuberances on their heads called ossicones. These are formed with ossified cartilage covered with skin and fur. Ossicones are thin and tufted in females, and thick and bald on top in males, as a result of wearing during fights with other males. Ossicones possibly take part in thermoregulation.

Some males develop calcium deposits on top of their heads, which creates the illusion of the animal having more than two horns. The result is somewhat unsightly, but can be used to deliver heavier blows during fights with other males.

Giraffes' tongue is about 45 cm in length and highly prehensile (capable of grasping). The tongue, together with a narrow muzzle and a flexible upper lip, allows giraffes to successfully negotiate the bigger thorns of acacia tree and pull the leaves. The end of the tongue tends to be black to prevent sun burns, as it is out and exposed to the sun a significant portion of the time, and may be pink or purple near the top.

Both male and female have a spotted coat. The subspecies (and now species) differ slightly in coloration and patterning. Giraffes' patches are first and foremost for camouflage, but each patch also acts as a thermal window to release body heat. The skin pattern is similar to one of our fingerprints, it is a unique identifier for each animal and constant throughout the Giraffes' life.

It was previously thought that Giraffes had a really big heart, but recent research has revealed that there isn’t room for this. Instead, Giraffes have a relatively small heart and its power comes from a very strong beat as a result of the incredibly thick walls of the left ventricle.

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10% of the sale price of this neckwarmer is donated to the environmental NGO GCF.

For further information about the work carried out by GCF, take a look to this page.

Are there any subspecies?

Nine subspecies of Giraffes are currently recognized. New findings propose that there are actually four species and five subspecies of Giraffe. However, more research is needed to confirm these new results and alter the up-to-date classification.

  • Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis)
    • Nubian Giraffe (c. camelopardalis) South Sudan and Ethiopia
    • Kordofan Giraffe (c. antiquorum) Central Africa
    • West African Giraffe (c. peralta) Niger
    • Reticulated Giraffe (c. reticulata) Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia
    • Masai Giraffe ( c. tippelskirchi) Tanzania and Kenya
    • Angolan Giraffe (c. angolensis) Bostwana and Namibia
    • South African Giraffe (c. giraffe) Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia
    • Thornicroft’s Giraffe (c. thornicrofti) Luagwa Valley and Zambia
    • Rothschild's Giraffe (c. rothschildi) Uganda and Kenya
  • Northern Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)
    • Nubian Giraffe (G. c. Camelopardalis)
    • Kordofan Giraffe (G. c. Antiquorum)
    • West African Giraffe (G. c. Peralta)
  • Reticulated Giraffe (Reticulated Giraffe)
  • Masai Giraffe (Tippelskirchi giraffe)
  • Southern Giraffe (Giraffe giraffe)
    • Angolan Giraffe (G. g. Angolensis)
    • South African Giraffe (G. g. Giraffe)

Where are they found?

Giraffes are widespread across Southern and Eastern Africa, with smaller isolated populations in West and Central Africa. They occur in 21 African countries and appears to have gone extinct in at least seven more (Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Senegal).

What is their habitat?

Giraffes have adapted to a variety of habitats, ranging from desert landscapes to woodlands and savannas.

Giraffes in Niger

How do they mate?

Giraffes are polygamous. Meaning that dominant males usually mate with all the females in the herd who are fertile.

They reach sexual maturity at three or four years of age, although males may not breed until the age of six or seven, due to the competition from larger males.

Female giraffes go into oestrus every two weeks all the year round. Although giraffes do not have a mating season, breeding is more common during the rainy season because they are less stressed out and there is plenty of food to consume.

To find which of them are willing to mate, the males smell their urine. If things look promising, male follows the female around until she stands still, indicating that the time is right. Finally, the male mounts the female from the rear and copulates with her.

The gestation period lasts about 15 months. The interval between births is almost two years.

Newborn reticulated giraffe

About their offspring

Mother giraffes give birth standing up so calves are born falling to the ground from almost two meters height. Usually a single calf is born twins are uncommon, but do occur.

The new-born calves are able to walk within an hour or so. They depend on the mother's milk for nine to twelve months and begin testing solid foods at about four months of age.

During the first months after birth, calves are very vulnerable to being trapped by predators. Scientists report that only 1/4 of infants survive to adulthood due to the high rates of predation.

After weaning, calves remain close to the female for almost two years. However, the independence period varies between bulls and cows. Cows tend to stay within the herd, and bulls tend to become independent.

Communication and the senses

Giraffes communicate with one another by infrasonic sounds so, beyond the range of human hearing.

Their vision relies mainly on their height. It allows them to maintain herd cohesion in the vast savannah and to avoid surprise attacks from predators.

They also have a good sense of smell

When are they active?

Feeding takes up most of a giraffes' day. Time spent browsing often increases during the dry season, as good quality food is harder to find, and they often have to travel further to satisfy their nutritional needs.

Giraffes sleep only a few hours every day. They normally rest while standing up, although sometimes can be observed lying down. When lying down, giraffes fold their legs under their body, but mostly keeping their necks hold high. Occasionally, they can sleep with their head resting back on their rump. This form of sleep only lasts for very short periods of time because it is an extremely exposed position.

What do they eat?

Giraffes are herbivores and feed on leaves, stems, flowers, seed pods, fruits, and rarely grass. Their favorite food are acacia trees and shrubs. Males usually feed with their neck and head completely extended to reach branches higher than those the females are feeding from.

They are ruminant, just like cattle or sheep. They swallow the food rapidly without chewing, so they are then forced to spend lots of time moving the food around between their four stomachs and their mouth. Giraffes regurgitate the food they have swallowed, then chew it, and finally re-swallow it.

If there is water readily available, giraffes will drink often. They splay forelegs and / or bent knees to enable their long neck to reach down to the water. However, in arid environments, giraffes absorb the majority of their moisture thanks to the condensation that gather from the leaves.

Do they have predators?

Lions are the main predators of giraffes. They are also vulnerable to leopards and hyenas, and to a lesser extent cheetah and crocodile. Most predators target young, sick, or elderly giraffes. Moreover, humans posed a big problem by poaching them.

Giraffes defend themselves against predators by kicking with their long legs. They also run at speed of 50 km / h for sustained periods.

What is their lifespan?

The average lifespan in the wild: 25 years.

Herd of giraffes

Source: Giraffe Conservation Trust

South African bulls fighting

How do they behave?

Giraffes are non-territorial and social. They form flexible herds of 10 to 20 individuals in very variable ranges, depending on food and water availability.

Giraffes do not have strong social ties, except the mothers with their offspring. Moms gather in nursery herds and look after each other's calves while looking for food to protect their babies against predators.

The young males that are old enough to care for themselves form bachelor herds. They will play and interact to try to find out who is the strongest and most dominant in the group.

Mature males leave their born group and usually spend the rest of their lives alone, except for the mating season.

Males do compete against each other for dominance and mating opportunities. They fight using their necks and heads as weapons. This ritual is referred to as “necking”.

Are they endangered?

Giraffe populations have suffered a dramatic drop of 36-40% over the past 30 years and are considered as vulnerable to extinction.

These are the main factors that have caused this decline:

  • Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation due to human population growth, which goes hand-in-hand with the expansion of agricultural and livestock activities. Also because of mining activities and uncontrolled logging.
  • Illegal hunting for meat and hide.
  • Armed conflicts.
  • Drought conditions are becoming more and more common. This situation increases the risk of wildfires and human populations movements (sometimes into protected areas).
  • Diseases such as anthrax and rinderpest.
  • Car and train accidents outside protected areas.

Most of these factors have not ceased and may not be reversible thorough the species' range.

Given that giraffes are distributed throughout Africa and live from state-owned national parks and reserves to private and communal lands, conservation actions aren't an easy task. However, these should include habitat management and protection by law enforcement, and community based conservation initiatives.

How Giraffes Became Winners by a Neck

Giraffes have taught generations of students how evolution works. Not directly, of course. Communicating through nocturnal humming is a barrier to classroom instruction. But the modern giraffe - Giraffa camelopardalis - is often used as the textbook example of why Darwin and Wallace were right and Lamarck was wrong.

The setup goes something like this. Think of a little protogiraffe gazing hungrily at some tasty leaves high up on a tree. Someone from the Lamarckian school of evolution, the argument goes, might assume that the little giraffoid would stretch its neck to grab the lowest of those high leaves and, through exertion, develop a longer neck that it would then pass on to its offspring. Repeat for best results. A Darwinian, on the other hand, would expect the protogiraffes to vary in neck length and those that just happened to have slightly longer necks would be able to reach more food, survive longer, and mate often enough to pass on that variation to the next generation, who would play out the scenario over again.

While the scenario is a bit of a caricature of what Lamarck actually thought, it’s still useful in getting at the basic evolutionary equation that Darwin and Wallace independently distilled. Yet, despite the thought experiment’s popularity, we’ve known little of how the giraffe actually got its neck. Today's tall browsers definitely evolved from shorter-necked ancestors, but how? A new study by New York Institute of Technology's College of Osteopathic Medicine anatomist Melinda Danowitz and colleagues now provides an answer.

Giraffes aren't the only animals to have evolved impressively-long necks. The sauropod dinosaurs and aquatic plesiosaurs, for example, stretched out to ludicrous lengths both by adding additional vertebrae to the column and elongating those individual bones. But giraffes have the standard number of neck vertebrae shared by most mammals - seven - with the first element in the thoracic part of the spine being modified as a possible eighth “neck” bone. But that's it. Evolution, constrained by mammalian anatomy, molded giraffes in a different way than the long-necked saurians.

Danowitz and coauthors looked at anatomical landmarks on 71 giraffe vertebrae spanning 11 species from over 16 million years ago to the present, focusing on the second and third vertebrae in the neck. As it turns out, a proportionally-long neck isn’t new for these mammals.

The best candidate for a real protogiraffe, Prodremotherium, and an early giraffe named Canthumeryx already had neck bones that were long compared to their width. “[N] ot only did the giraffid lineage begin with a relatively elongated neck,” Danowitz and coauthors write, “but that this cervical lengthening precedes Giraffidae” - the giraffe subgroup typically thought of as encompassing all the long-necked forms.

But even though the earliest giraffes already had slightly-elongated neck bones, there was no “March of Progress” towards towering heights. At least one - and possibly more - giraffe lineages reverted to abbreviated necks hung around stout vertebrae. Giraffokeryx was among the earliest of the short-necked giraffes, browsing low-lying foliage around 12 million years ago, and within the last three million years Sivatherium, Bramatherium, and the okapi followed suit. The short-necks proliferated alongside their lankier relatives, which is why we still have both short- and long-necked giraffes today.

Truly long-necked giraffes didn’t evolve until about 7.5 million years ago. Samotherium, Palaeotragus, Bohlinia, the extinct Giraffa sivalensis and the living Giraffa camelopardalis preserve enough transitional features to let Danowitz and colleagues reconstruct how this stretching occurred. It wasn’t simply a matter of drawing out their vertebrae as if they were in some sort of anatomical taffy pull. The front half of the neck vertebrae became elongated in Samotherium and Palaeotragus, generating forms intermediate between today’s Giraffe and their foreshortened predecessors. Then, within the last two millions years or so, the lineage leading up to the modern Giraffe elongated the back half of their neck vertebrae, giving them even more reach and making them literally at the top of their class.

If you could assemble all these fossil bits and pieces into a short film replaying giraffe evolution, you wouldn’t end up with the smooth transformation of a small-statured herbivore into a towering, checkered browser. There'd be starts and stops and side stories, the ending not being a goal but a happenstance. In short, it's time again to update those textbooks.

Northern Giraffe

Kordofan giraffe (G. c. antiquorum)

The Kordofan giraffe's range includes some of Africa's more hostile areas: southern Chad, Central African Republic, northern Cameroon, northern Democratic Republic of Congo, and western South Sudan. It is estimated that approximately 2,000 individuals survive in these war ravaged countries. A decline of more than 80% in the last three decades has resulted in their recent listing as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

The Kordofan giraffe's patches are pale and irregular. Similar to other Northern giraffe subspecies, they have no markings on their lower legs.

Nubian giraffe (G. c. camelopardalis)

The Nubian giraffe is the nominate subspecies, which means that because it was the first specimen recorded, its Latin sub-specific name is the same as the original species described. The estimated number of Nubian giraffe is approximately 3,000 individuals, which includes the genetically identical formerly recognized Rothschild's giraffe. At present, fewer than 200 occur in western Ethiopia, 450 in eastern South Sudan, 800 in Kenya, and more than 1,550 in Uganda.

Interestingly, the majority of Nubian giraffe in Kenya live extralimitally (outside their natural range), which is the result of an effort to establish viable populations for conservation.

Exact information about the precariously small and fragmented populations in Ethiopia and South Sudan is extremely difficult to ascertain, and their numbers are most likely lower due to increased poaching in the region. Based on the rate of decline, estimated at 95% in the last three decades, Nubian giraffe were, for the first time, added to the IUCN Red List and listed as Critically Endangered. In 2010, the formerly known Rothschild's subspecies was classified as Endangered and of High Conservation Importance on the IUCN Red List, but based on good conservation efforts of governments and partners, including GCF, the Rothschild's giraffe was downlisted to Near Threatened as populations and numbers have increased. Once the IUCN recognizes the two subspecies as one, the conservation status on the IUCN Red List for Nubian giraffe as a whole will most likely remain Critically Endangered, indicating an urgent need for immediate conservation measures.

The Nubian giraffe's patches are large, rectangular and chestnut-brown. The patches are surrounded by an off-white, creamy color. There are no markings on their lower legs.


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Giraffes, (genus Giraffe), any of four species in the genus Giraffe of long-necked cud-chewing hoofed mammals of Africa, with long legs and a coat pattern of irregular brown patches on a light background. Giraffes are the tallest of all land animals males (bulls) may exceed 5.5 meters (18 feet) in height, and the tallest females (cows) are about 4.5 meters. Using prehensile tongues almost half a meter long, they are able to browse foliage almost six meters from the ground. Giraffes are a common sight in grasslands and open woodlands in East Africa, where they can be seen in reserves such as Tanzania's Serengeti National Park and Kenya's Amboseli National Park. The genus Giraffe is made up of the northern giraffe (G. camelopardalis), the southern giraffe (G. giraffe), the Masai giraffe (G. tippelskirchi), and the reticulated giraffe (G. reticulata).

How tall are giraffes?

Male giraffes may exceed 5.5 meters (18 feet) in height and female giraffes may reach about 4.5 meters (about 14 feet). Giraffes grow to nearly their full height by age four.

Where do giraffes live?

Most giraffes live in grasslands and open woodlands in East Africa, especially in reserves such as the Serengeti National Park and the Amboseli National Park. Some are also found in the reserves of Southern Africa.

What do giraffes eat?

Giraffes eat new shoots and leaves, mainly from the thorny acacia tree. The tongue and the inside of the mouth are lined with tough tissue that protects against the thorns.

How long do giraffes live?

Giraffes live up to 26 years in the wild and slightly longer in captivity.

Are giraffes an endangered species?

Giraffes are not classified as an endangered species. Their conservation status was reclassified from a species of least concern to vulnerable in 2016 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, in response to increased mortality rates brought on by habitat loss and illegal hunting.

Giraffes grow to nearly their full height by four years of age but gain weight until they are seven or eight. Males weigh up to 1,930 kg (4,250 pounds), females up to 1,180 kg (2,600 pounds). The tail may be a meter in length and has a long black tuft on the end there is also a short black mane. Both sexes have a pair of horns, though males possess other bony protuberances on the skull. The back slopes downward to the hindquarters, a silhouette explained mainly by large muscles that support the neck these muscles are attached to long spines on the vertebrae of the upper back. There are only seven neck (cervical) vertebrae, but they are elongated. Thick-walled arteries in the neck have extra valves to counteract gravity when the head is up when the giraffe lowers its head to the ground, special vessels at the base of the brain control blood pressure.

The gait of the giraffe is a pace (both legs on one side move together). In a gallop, it pushes off with the hind legs, and the front legs come down almost together, but no two hooves touch the ground at the same time. The neck flexes so that balance is maintained. Speeds of 50 km (31 miles) per hour can be maintained for several kilometres, but 60 km (37 miles) per hour can be attained over short distances. Arabs say of a good horse that it can “outpace a giraffe.”

Giraffes live in nonterritorial groups of up to 20. Home ranges are as small as 85 square km (33 square miles) in wetter areas but up to 1,500 square km (580 square miles) in dry regions. The animals are gregarious, a behaviour that apparently allows for increased vigilance against predators. They have excellent eyesight, and when one giraffe stares, for example, at a lion a kilometre away, the others look in that direction too. Giraffes live up to 26 years in the wild and slightly longer in captivity.

Giraffes prefer to eat new shoots and leaves, mainly from the thorny acacia tree. Cows in particular select high-energy low-fibre items. They are prodigious eaters, and a large male consumes about 65 kg (145 pounds) of food per day. The tongue and inside of the mouth are coated with tough tissue as protection. The giraffe grasps leaves with its prehensile lips or tongue and pulls them into the mouth. If the foliage is not thorny, the giraffe “combs” leaves from the stem by pulling it across the lower canine and incisor teeth. Giraffes obtain most water from their food, though in the dry season they drink at least every three days. They must spread the forelegs apart in order to reach the ground with the head.

Females first breed at four or five years of age. Gestation is 15 months, and, though most calves are born in dry months in some areas, births can take place in any month of the year. The single offspring is about 2 metres (6 feet) tall and weighs 100 kg (220 pounds). For a week the mother licks and nuzzles her calf in isolation while they learn each other’s scent. Thereafter, the calf joins a “nursery group” of similar-aged youngsters, while mothers forage at variable distances. If lions or hyenas attack, a mother sometimes stands over her calf, kicking at the predators with front and back legs. Cows have food and water requirements that may keep them away from the nursery group for hours at a time, and about half of very young calves are killed by lions and hyenas. Calves sample vegetation at three weeks but suckle for 18–22 months. Males join other bachelors when one to two years old, whereas daughters are likely to stay near the mother.

Bulls eight years and older travel up to 20 km per day looking for cows in heat (estrus). Younger males spend years in bachelor groups, where they engage in “necking” bouts. These side-to-side clashes of heads cause mild damage, and bone deposits subsequently form around the horns, eyes, and back of the head a single lump projects from between the eyes. Accumulation of bone deposits continues through life, resulting in skulls weighing 30 kg. Necking also establishes a social hierarchy. Violence sometimes occurs when two older bulls converge on an estrous cow. The advantage of a heavy, knobbed skull is soon apparent. With forelegs braced, bulls swing their necks and club each other with their skulls, aiming for the underbelly. There have been instances of bulls being knocked off their feet or even rendered unconscious.

Paintings of giraffes appear on early Egyptian tombs just as today, giraffe tails were prized for the long wiry tuft hairs used to weave belts and jewelry. In the 13th century, East Africa supplied a trade in hides. During the 19th and 20th centuries, overhunting, habitat destruction, and rinderpest epidemics introduced by European livestock reduced giraffes to less than half their former range. Today giraffes are numerous in East African countries and also in certain reserves of Southern Africa, where they have enjoyed somewhat of a recovery. The West African subspecies of the northern giraffe is reduced to a small range in Niger.

Giraffes were traditionally classified into one species, Giraffa camelopardalis, and then into several subspecies on the basis of physical features. Nine subspecies were recognized by coat pattern similarities however, it was also known that individual coat patterns were unique. Some scientists contended that these animals could be divided into six or more species, since studies had shown that differences in genetics, reproductive timing, and pelage patterns (which are indicative of reproductive isolation) exist between various groups. By the 2010s mitochondrial DNA studies had determined that genetic uniquenesses brought on by the reproductive isolation of one group from another were significant enough to separate giraffes into four distinct species.

The giraffe had long been classified as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which places all giraffes in the species G. camelopardalis. A study in 2016, however, determined that habitat loss resulting from expanding agricultural activities, increased mortality brought on by illegal hunting, and the effects of ongoing civil unrest in a handful of African countries had caused giraffe populations to plummet by 36–40 percent between 1985 and 2015, and, as of 2016, the IUCN has reclassified the conservation status of the species as vulnerable.

The only close relative of the giraffe is the rainforest-dwelling okapi, which is the only other member of the family Giraffidae. G. camelopardalis or something very similar lived in Tanzania two million years ago, but Giraffidae branched off from other members of the order Artiodactyla—cattle, antelope, and deer—about 34 million years ago.

Giraffa camelopardalis

Other Names for Giraffa camelopardalis


Dagg, A. I. and J. B. Foster. 1976. The Giraffe: Its Biology, Behaviour and Ecology. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York.

Pratt, D. M. and V. H. Anderson. 1982. Population, distribution, and behaviour of giraffe in the Arusha National Park, Tanzania. Journal of Natural History 16:481-9.

Pratt, D. M. and V. H. Anderson. 1985. Giraffe social behavior. Journal of Natural History 19:771-81.

Simmons, R. E. and L. Scheepers. 1996. Winning by a neck: Sexual selection in the evolution of giraffe. The American Naturalist 148:771-86.

Title Illustrations

Scientific Name Giraffa camelopardalis
Location Tanzania
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
Copyright © Greg and Marybeth Dimijian
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The IUCN currently recognizes only one species of giraffe with nine subspecies, one of which is the reticulated giraffe. [1] [5] All living giraffes were originally classified as one species by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. The subspecies was described and given a binomial name Giraffa reticulata by British zoologist William Edward de Winton in 1899.

Reticulated giraffes historically occurred widely throughout Northeast Africa. Their favored habitats are savannas, woodlands, seasonal floodplains, and rainforests.

To save the remaining 9,000, or so, Reticulated giraffes, several conservation organizations have been formed. One of these organizations is San Diego Zoo Global's "Twiga Walinzi" (meaning Giraffe Guards) initiative. Their work includes hiring and training local Kenyans to monitor 120 trail cameras in Northern Kenya (Loisaba Conservancy and Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy) that capture footage of wild giraffes and other Kenyan wildlife developing a photo ID database so individual giraffes can be tracked informing rangers of poaching incidents and removing snares caring for orphaned giraffes and educating communities about giraffe conservation.

Along with the Rothschild's giraffe, the reticulated giraffe is the most common giraffe found in zoos. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado is said to have the largest reticulated giraffe herd in all of North America. [6] Reticulated and Rothschild's giraffes have been bred together in the past. This was done because it was thought that the giraffe subspecies interbred in the wild. However, new research that was done in 2016 discovered that the separate giraffe populations do not interbreed.

Few zoos have distinct Rothschild's giraffe or reticulated giraffe herds. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, [7] Bronx Zoo, [8] and Chester Zoo [9] have herds of just Rothschild's giraffe. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, [6] Busch Gardens Tampa, [10] The Maryland Zoo, [11] Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, [12] The Louisville Zoo, and Binder Park Zoo all have strictly reticulated giraffe herds. However, some zoos still breed Rothschild's giraffe and reticulated giraffes.

Video: ГИГАНТСКАЯ ГОРИЛЛА В ДЕЛЕ! Грозная обезьяна, которую боятся даже Львы.

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