The Giraffe

The Giraffe – Everything you need to know about Giraffes

The Giraffe is one of the most elegant animals in Africa. It is also the tallest animal in the world, the Giraffe.

Natural Habitat:
Giraffes’ natural habitat includes the african bushveld and scrublands. They spend most of their day roaming around browsing. 

Giraffes are phenomenal animals to see in the wild and no matter how many times I have seen these gentle giants, Giraffes never fail to amaze me how strong and tall they really are. In the wild, males can reach heights of 5,5 metres and females 4,5 metres

Giraffes don’t have horns but ossicones. These are smaller with females, while males have ossicones that are large and pronounced like horns and are often bald on the top as a result of necking combats with rival males. Ossicones add extra weight to the giraffe’s head and allow them to deliver a powerful blow to their opponent.

The Giraffe’s tongue can grow to 45cm in length

Necking is the term used to describe contests held between males. These combats are strenuous and exhausting for the males and with each blow the males aim to wear down each other. Eventually the strongest male will subdue the weaker male and will win breeding rights.

Giraffes have large patch-like brown spots that cover almost their entire bodies. These patches are principally for camouflage. The giraffes’ patches also help them to thermoregulate. Surrounding each patch is a network of large blood vessels that branch off into smaller blood vessels underneath the patch. Giraffes are able to send blood to their patches so that the heat is released into the air. This helps them control their body temperature and stay cool in the bisterning african heat. This is just one of the intriguing adaptations giraffes have that aren’t as obvious as their extremely long necks.

The Giraffe’s neck:
Giraffe’s necks are primarily a feeding adaptation. Their long necks allow giraffes to reach leaves, fruits and flowers from vachellia trees. This combined with their long tongues means that they are able to reach foliage that other terrestrial animals are unable to reach. Their necks also help them to keep a lookout for any potential predators. Even though a giraffe’s neck is comparably longer than a human’s neck, we both share exactly the same amount of vertebrae. 

A tower of Giraffes in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

The Giraffe’s tongue:
Giraffes have tongues that are around 45cm long and are prehensile. These tongues are extremely tough and thick, enabling them to browse Vachellia and Sengalia trees and protect themselves from the long sharp thorns designed to protect the tree from browsing animals. The roof of the giraffe’s mouth is hardened to protect them from thorns and a thick saliva to protect its tongue. These tongues are dark blue, black or purple on the end and pink at the base. It’s thought that the reason for the giraffe’s darkly coloured tongue is to protect it from getting sunburnt.

The giraffe’s heart:
The giraffe’s heart weighs a whopping 11 kilograms and is able to generate almost double the average blood pressure of other mammals. They also have a complex blood pressure-regulation system in their upper necks which helps to prevent excess blood flow to the brain when they lower their heads to drink water. Giraffes also have a very tight sheath of thick skin that covers their lower limbs which helps maintain high extravascular pressure in the same way as a fighter jet pilot’s g-suit does. 

For a long period of time it was believed that there was only one species of Giraffe, but over the last decade scientists and the Giraffe Conservation Fund and its partners have gathered DNA samples and data from almost every major giraffe population throughout Africa. In close collaboration with experts, and the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre at the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, they discovered that there are actually 3 species and 5 subspecies of Giraffe. 



Giraffes only drink water every 3 to 4 days, even in areas where a readily source of water is available. To be able to drink water from the waterhole it requires a bit of effort. Once they have lowered their necks, they will continue to drink water for 5 to 10 minutes after which they will suddenly throw their heads back up into the air to prevent themselves from falling forward into the water. This is a spectacular sight to witness in real life. These giraffes were so big that when they came down to the waterhole, all the other animals fled in a panic. Their sheer size makes them very intimidating to the other more frequent visitors of the waterhole.

Giraffes form social gatherings called herds or towers. These towers can be as 

Conservation Status:
Giraffe populations are declining in the wild. The total number of giraffes in the wild is now around 111,000 giraffes. On the contrary the number of South African Giraffe was estimated to be around now estimated to be at around 39,000 giraffes and they are making a steady increase each year. 

Giraffes are considered vulnerable and their populations are silently decreasing while many animal activists focus their attention to other popular species such as Rhinoceros, Leopards, Lions, and Cheetahs.

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