Giraffa camelopardalis - The Giraffe

Ancient cultures in Africa revered the giraffe, as some modern cultures do today, and commonly depicted it in prehistoric rock and cave paintings. Unknown outside of Africa, early written records described the giraffe as "magnificent in appearance, bizarre in form, unique in gait, colossal in height and inoffensive in character."

Did you know? Ancient cultures in Africa revered the giraffe, as some modern cultures do today, and commonly depicted it in prehistoric rock and cave paintings.

The Giraffe moves about the semi-arid regions in groups. Its height allows it to keep in contact with other giraffes over large distances as well as spotting predators from afar. It is not uncommon to see other animals following a giraffe using it as an early predator warning system. The Giraffe is vulnerable when drinking. It is a quiet species although the males fight viciously for dominance over the group.

The neck is so long the giraffe must spread its front legs apart so its head can reach the ground to drink. It has unusually elastic blood vessels with a series of valves that help offset the sudden buildup of blood (and to prevent fainting) when the head is raised, lowered or swung quickly.

Did you know? Giraffes drink water when it is available, and are able to survive in areas with scarce water.

The giraffe's high shoulders and sloping back give the impression that its front legs are much longer than the hind legs, but they are in fact only slightly longer. The giraffe (as well as its short-necked relative the okapi from Central African forests) has a distinctive walking gait, moving both legs on one side forward at the same time. At a gallop, however, the gait changes, and the giraffe simultaneously swings the hind legs ahead of and outside the front legs, reaching speeds of 35 miles an hour. Its heavy head moves forward with each powerful stride, then swings back to stay balanced.

Giraffes have "horns" not true horns but knobs covered with skin and hair above the eyes to protect the head from blows.

Size

18 feet; weight: Up to 3000 pounds.

Habitat

Dry savannah woodland. Giraffes are found in arid and dry-savanna zones south of the Sahara, wherever trees occur.

Distribution

Giraffes are graceful, and watching them eat off the tops of the trees or stoop down for a cool drink at the watering hole is memorable. In the Eastern Cape, they can be found at the Addo Elephant National Park, Shamwari Game Reserve, and Kariega Game Reserve; which are all situated just outside Port Elizabeth, close to Grahamstown. They also live in Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, and the Tsitsikamma National Park along the Garden Route.

If you are visiting Cape Town, take a leisurely (less than two hours) drive along the N1 to the Aquila Private Game Reserve where you can observe the Giraffe as well as the Big 5.

Diet - Herbivore

Herbivorous browsers. When protected, giraffes can flourish in areas where food is abundant year round. Although they drink water when it's available, they can survive where it is scarce. Giraffe occasionally eat grass and fruits of various trees and shrubs, but their principal food source is the acacia tree.

Socialisation

Female giraffes tend to bond and form small herds of ten to twelve. Unless they are still under the care of their mothers, males are seldomly found in these herds. Females form what is known as nursery groups helping each other out, watching the young whilst others feed. Once old enough to care for themselves the young males branch off and form bachelor herds. Mature males leave the herd and tend to live alone until it is time to mate. A strong male will often mate with an enture herd of females.

Reproduction

Single young are born any time of the year.

Gestation

The gestation period is 15 months.

Life Expectancy

28 years

Predators

  • Humans
  • Lions
  • Crocodiles

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Where to see Giraffe in their natural habitat?

Want to see giraffe in their natural habitat? In South Africa you will find giraffe in most game reserves and parks, including...

Conservation Status
Giraffe
Endangered
South Africa's Big 5

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