- Giraffa camelopordalis
SIZE: Height to top of head (m) 5 m, (f) 4,5 m; mass
(m) 1 200 kg, (f) 800 kg.
COLOUR: Well-defined, irregularly shaped patches varying
from fawn to dark brown, patterned on a paler background
that shades to white on the lower legs. Colouring
darkens with age; varies widely geographically.
SPEED: 50 km/hr
GESTATION PERIOD: 14 -15 months
POTENTIAL LONGEVITY: 28 years
MOST LIKE: Unlike any other animal.
HABITAT: From sparsely wooded scrubland to thickly
over-grown bush country, especially where there are
acacia and other thorn trees to provide the giraffe's
staple diet of leaves, and to provide camouflage.
Social bonds are not strongly developed, and herd structure
seems to be loose, made up mainly of females and young,
although mixed herds and bachelor herds are also found.
There is apparently no consistency in the ratio of males
to females in a herd, and herds rarely consist of the same
individuals for more than a few days.
They do not defend a territory, and have fairly large home
ranges. A newborn giraffe can weigh in at some 100 kg. The
calves lie hidden in a resting area, and when slightly older
often form small nursery herds guarded by one or two females.
Young calves are playful, and run together kicking up their
legs. Mortality amongst giraffe calves is high, and may
reach 70 % in some areas.
Nature's skyscraper, the Giraffe is the world's tallest
animal. Its carotid artery and jugular vein, running down
the long neck from head to heart, are equipped with special
valves to keep the blood from alternately flooding and evacuating
the brain as the head is raised, or lowered to drink water.
occur in a wide range of dry savanna associations ranging from
scrub to woodland, providing that these include the particular
range of food plants necessary to cover their seasonal requirements.
They are predominantly diurnal browsers, and eat a wide range
of food plants, but they do graze occasionally on fresh, sprouting
The giraffe's defensive weapon against its main enemy, the lion,
is a kick that packs a powerful, hoofed punch. Giraffe have
an unusual, ungainly gait: the two legs on each side swing almost
in unison. At full gallop, with the tail twisted over the hindquarters
and the neck swinging to and fro in rhythm with the legs, it
can achieve a speed of 56 km/h. A sleepy giraffe may take a
nap standing up, with its head supported in the fork of a tree.
Even if it lies down it will usually keep its neck upright.
If a whole troop of giraffes are resting, they orientate themselves
in different directions so as to be prepared for danger from
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