Species of the Week

This week celebrating the World Giraffe Day, we are going to know more about this amazing species.

Common name: Giraffe

Species: Giraffa camelopardalis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Cetartiodactyla

Family: Giraffidae

Genus: Giraffa

 

 

Conservation status: Vulnerable (since 2015)

Diet: Herbivores

Average male height: 5.3 m

 Average female height: 4.3 m

Male weight: 1,100 – 1,932 kg

Female weight: 700 – 1,182 kg

Neck length: 2.4 m

Height at birth: 1.8 m

Weight at birth: 44 – 70 kg

Tail Length: up to 2,4 m

Average life span in the wild: 25 years old

 

Giraffes are the tallest land mammals, that belong to the order Certardiodactyla and the Giraffidae family, which also includes the Okapi, an animal that shares certain characteristics with the giraffe but with a very different appearance. The IUCN SSC Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group (GOSG) currently recognizes a single species, comprehending nine subspecies of giraffes.

 

They are known for their great height, they are native to Africa and that its most iconic characteristic is its long neck that serves them to reach the top of the trees when looking for food. Giraffes are very gentle animals, and they tend to do very well sharing with other plant eaters in the wild the same feeding grounds. When there is plenty of food up high in the trees, they will consume it first, so the others do not represent any competition for them. Each species and subspecies that live today have a fur design different from each other, and, even more, each giraffe has a unique pattern that never repeats in another individual, just like our fingerprints.

 

Geographic Range

Giraffes remain widespread across southern and eastern Africa, with some smaller isolated populations in west and central Africa. This species is native from: Angola; Botswana; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Ethiopia; Kenya; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe. They were introduced in Swaziland and Rwanda and are possibly extinct in Mali.

They have adapted to a variety of habitats, due to that they can be found from desert landscapes to woodlands or savannas.

Diet

Giraffes during the dry season eat evergreen leaves, however, once the rainy season begins, they switch to new leaves and stems that sprout on deciduous trees. When there is a choice, male and female giraffes feed in different ways. Males concentrate on leaves from the highest branches, while the females arch their necks to eat closer to the ground.

Giraffes drink large quantities of water and as a result, they can spend long periods of time in dry, arid areas. When searching for more food they will venture into areas with denser foliage. The giraffe has tough lips to ensure there is no damage to their mouths when chewing at trees and twigs such as thorns.

 

Reproduction

This species breeding season can occur at any time during the year. However, births in captivity can happen all year long round, birds in the wild usually happen during the dry season.  Giraffes reach sexual maturity around 3-4 years old in captivity, but in the wild males do not usually breed until they reach 6-7 years old.

Gestation period is usually 13 – 15 months and when a pregnant female giraffe is ready to give birth, she makes her way to a calving area that she will use throughout her life. The moment of birth is dramatic, with the mother giraffe standing on all fours and the calf tumbling onto the ground. Remarkably, the calf is rarely injured by its fall.

When male giraffes are ready to breed, they begin the ritual combat over mates. Giraffes are non- territorial and a successful male giraffe will mate with receptive female giraffes whenever and wherever it finds them.

How does a giraffe bend down?

For giraffes, bending down is a daily challenge. To reach ground level for example, when drinking a giraffe has to splay its front legs at an angle of almost 45 degrees. A giraffes circulatory system is also specially modified, because the high pressure needed to pump blood up to its head could cause brain damage when the head is lowered. To deal with this problem, giraffes have elastic blood vessels that relieve some of the excess pressure.

 

Threats

  • Habitat loss (deforestation, land use, expansion of agricultural activities and human population growth)
  • Civil unrest
  • Illegal hunting
  • Ecological changes

Conservation

  • Habitat management and protection
  • Law enforcement and community based initiatives
  • Community education and awareness programs

Curiosity

  • There is only one Giraffe species (9 sub-species)
  • The calf is rarely injured by its fall
  • The Giraffes heart weights around 11 Kg – it is this big because it needs to pump the blood all the way to its brain
  • They smell bad. It is possible that the odor repels ticks and fungus.
  • They sleep only about 4.6 hours per day, intermittently during the night.
  • In Mozambique they can be found in Limpopo National Park.

 

 

References:

Giraffe

http://www.giraffeworlds.com/

http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/9194/0

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/g/giraffe/

http://www.arkive.org/giraffe/giraffa-camelopardalis/

 

Images:

http://www.arkive.org/giraffe/giraffa-camelopardalis/image-G12277.html