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giraffe in a zoo

Giraffe standing.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Giraffidae
Genus: Giraffa
Binomial name
Giraffa camelopardalis
Giraffa camelopardalis subspecies map.jpg
Range map

A giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is a mammal which lives in Africa. Giraffes have an even number of toes and are the tallest land animals. Giraffes and Okapi are the family Giraffidae.

Appearance[change | change source]

Fully grown giraffes stand 4.3–5.7 m (14.1–18.7 ft) tall, with males taller than females.[1][2][3] The tallest recorded male was 5.88 m (19.3 ft) and the tallest recorded female was 5.17 m (17.0 ft) tall.[4][1] The average weight is 1,192 kg (2,628 lb) for an adult male and 828 kg (1,825 lb) for an adult female.[5] Maximum weights of 1,930 kg (4,250 lb) and having been recorded for males and females, respectively.[2][3] Giraffes have a very long neck and legs. Their fur has a light yellowish or brownish colour with dark patches. No two giraffes have the same pattern. The different sub-species have different coat patterns. Both male and female giraffes have small horn-like stumps on their head, which are covered with skin. The horns are called ossicones. These come from the cartilage displaced from their skull as it develops. These are fur-covered bumps on their skulls, unlike the horns of other animals.

They have a long black tongue, up to 45 cm in length.[2][3] Giraffes are the tallest land animals on Earth, with necks that can be up to 2-2.4 m (6.6-7.9 ft) in length.[2][3][6]

Habitat[change | change source]

Giraffes are found in parts of Africa. They live on the savannah, which is the African grassland, or in light woodland. )They do not live in thick forests where it is difficult to see predators, such as lions, approaching.

Life[change | change source]

Giraffes eat mostly leaves from tall trees, which they can reach because of their long legs and long necks, as well as fruit. Their rough tongue allows them to eat the acacia leaves protected by thorns. They can go without water for weeks.

Giraffes live alone or in loose groups. Young male giraffes form small groups until they become mature. Adult males live alone. Females form groups of 4–32 animals. When the female is close to giving birth, it leaves the group for a time to give birth to its offspring, and comes back 2-3 weeks after her baby is born.

After a pregnancy of 14-15 months, the female gives birth to usually a single baby, which is called "calf". Giraffes give birth while standing, so the baby falls down 2 metres. Giraffe calfs are already 2 m tall and weigh 50-55 kg.[2][3] The calf stays with its mother for 1½ years. Young giraffes become mature when they are 4 years old, and they are fully grown when they are 6 years old. Giraffes can live to 25 years old, and in captivity they can live 35 years.

Like all mammals, giraffes have only seven bones in their necks.

There are about nine different subspecies of giraffe, with only small differences between them. When giraffes of two different sub-species breed, the young are called hybrids (mixed breeds). Of the nine sub-species of giraffe, only one, the Rothchild's, is endangered.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Nowak R.M. 1999. Giraffe pages 1086–1089 in Walker's Mammals of the World.vol 1, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Maisano, Sarah. "''Giraffa camelopardalis'' giraffe".
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Owen-Smith R.N. 1988. Megaherbivores: The Influence of Very Large Body Size on Ecology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Dagg, A.I. and J. B. Foster (1976/1982): The Giraffe. Its Biology, Behavior, and Ecology. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida (Reprint 1982 with updated supplementary material.)
  5. Skinner J.D. & Smithers R.H.M. (1990). The mammals of the southern African subregion. University of Pretoria. pp. 616–20. ISBN 0-521-84418-5.
  6. Taylor M.P. & Wedel M.J. (2013). "Why sauropods had long necks; and why giraffes have short necks". PeerJ 1: e36. doi:10.7717/peerj.36. PMC 3628838. PMID 23638372.