Elephant – Top Facts, Sounds, Diet & Habitat Information

Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis): The giraffe is an African mammal and is the tallest living land animal

Giraffes are the tallest land animals

Female giraffes are up to 14 feet tall and weigh up to 1,500 pounds

Meanwhile, males are up to 18 feet tall and can weigh 3,000 pounds

Their neck alone can be 6 feet long, which is taller than the average man and can weigh up to 600 pounds

A giraffe’s legs are also about 6 feet long, allowing them to run quickly

The record running speed of a giraffe is 347 miles per hour

A giraffe’s heart is 2 feet long and weighs about 25 pounds

Giraffes are known for their long, tall appearance

Because of the combination of these features, some people called the giraffe a “camel-leopard” That’s where the giraffe’s species name “camelopardalis” comes from

These nine subspecies of giraffe vary in coat patterns and live in different parts of Africa

A giraffe’s coat color can range from light tan to nearly black, depending on what the giraffe eats and where it lives

Giraffe coat colors vary from light tan to practically black

For example, the reticulated giraffe, found only in northern Kenya, has a fark coat with a web of narrow white lines, while the Masai giraffe, also found in Kenya, has a pattern that looks similar to oak leaves

Giraffes have two horns on the top of their head called ossicones

Ossicones are covered in skin and fur like the rest of the giraffe’s body

Giraffes are herbivores, feasting on hundreds of pounds of leaves a week and traveling miles in search of food

Their height gives them an advantage over other African herbivores, as they can reach the high branches for young leaves

Their 18-inch tongue helps them reach some of the tougher leaves

It takes a lot to fuel such a large mammal, and a giraffe may eat up to 75 pounds of food per day

A giraffe will spend most of its day eating

Giraffes only need to drink once every several days because they get most of their water from the luscious plants they eat

While these trees have long thorns, which prevent most animals from eating them, giraffes use their long tongues and prehensile lips to reach around the thorns

The dark color of their tongue is believed to prevent sunburn while reaching for leaves

They are native to many African countries, such as Kenya, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Uganda, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Angola, and South Africa

The giraffe gestation period is about 14 months, and an adult female giraffe typically gives birth to one newborn, called a calf, at a time

When a calf is born, it is born feet first, followed by the head, neck, and shoulders

Female giraffes give birth standing up, so the young giraffe starts its life by falling more than 5 feet to the ground

About an hour after birth, the calf can already start to stand up and walk

When a calf gets older, the mother leaves her youngster together with other calves in a “nursery” One of the moms stays to babysit while the others go out to eat and socialize

The young giraffes can eat leaves at the age of four months, but continue to nurse until they are six to nine months old

Giraffes are social animals

Groups of giraffes are called “towers” Giraffes do not have strong social ties like other animal species, except the mothers with their offspring

Each member of the herd can leave the group at will

However, due to their size, giraffes do not hide from these predators

Giraffes typically live between 15 and 20 years in the wild

In many African countries, giraffe populations are slowly decreasing

The future of giraffes is largely dependent on the quality of the habitat that remains

Conservation groups, including San Diego Zoo Global, are working to protect giraffes

For example, San Diego Zoo Global supports a community conservation effort in northern Kenya that is finding ways for people and wildlife to live together

At the San Diego Zoo, there is a giraffe-feeding patio where biscuits can be purchased and fed to the giraffes

Through the sale of these giraffe biscuits, they are raising money to fund community conservation initiatives that they support in Africa

Earthdayorg provides a list of ways to help protect giraffes:

Support sustainable agriculture and settlement practices near giraffe habitats

Reforest key areas with acacia trees that provide giraffes’ main food source

Solve hunger in areas like Sudan where impoverished villagers eat giraffe meat

Support giraffe conservation efforts, such as those with WWF and the San Diego Zoo Source: The San Diego Zoo and NATURE’s Giraffe Resources

Image SourceThe Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis meaning ‘fast walking camel leopard) is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest of all land-living animal speciesThe giraffe is related to deer and cattle, however, it is placed in a separate family, the Giraffidae, consisting only of the giraffe and its closest relative, the okapiThe giraffes range extends from Chad to South Africa

Although the Okapi is much shorter than the giraffe, it also has a long neck and eats leaves and both animals have long tongues and skin-covered hornsThe giraffes ancestors first appeared in central Asia about 15 million years ago, however, the earliest fossil records of the giraffe itself, from Israel and Africa, date back about 15 million yearsMale giraffes are called ‘Bulls’, female giraffes are called ‘Cows’ and baby giraffes are called ‘Calves’Giraffe CharacteristicsThe giraffe is the tallest living animal which is instantly recognizable by its exceptionally long neck

Adult males stand 15 – 19 feet (46 – 60 metres) tall, whereas females are shorter at 13 – 16 feet (4 – 48 metres) tallAdult males weigh between 1,764 – 4,255 pounds (800 – 930 kilograms), while females weigh only 1,213 – 2,601 pounds (550 – 1,180 kilograms)The giraffe has the longest tail of any land mammal

Their tail can grow to be 8 feet (24 metres) long, including the tuft on the endIn addition to its great height, the giraffe is also one of the heaviest land animals

Exceptionally large males may weigh up to 1,900 kilograms (about 4,200 pounds)Female giraffes are smaller, rarely reaching half that weight

Compared to other hoofed mammals the giraffe has a relatively short body, however, its legs are disproportionately longA giraffes front legs are about 10% longer than their hind legs, a feature that contributes to the animals steeply sloping back

Mature giraffes have large hooves about the size of dinner plates, around 12 inches wideGiraffe HabitatGiraffes can inhabit savannas, grasslands or open woodlands

Giraffes prefer areas enriched with acacia growth (a genus of shrubs and trees)

Most giraffes live either in East Africa or in Angola and Zambia in southwestern Africa

Until the middle of the 20th century giraffes were also commonly found in West Africa, south of the Sahara

But populations there have fallen sharply and become increasingly fragmentedGiraffe DietGiraffes live in habitats where the available food varies throughout the year

During the dry season, giraffes eat evergreen leaves, however, once the rainy season begins, they switch to new leaves and stems that sprout on deciduous trees

Also, twigs and branches are pulled into the mouth of the giraffe with their long and dextrous tongues

In the wild giraffes can eat up to 66 kilograms of food dailyWhen 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

Because of this characteristic behaviour, a giraffe can be identified as either male or female from a long distance away simply by its stance while eatingMale giraffes are also more inclined to wander into dense woodland, a habitat that females generally avoidGiraffes drink large quantities of water and as a result, they can spend long periods of time in dry, arid areas

The giraffe has tough lips to ensure there is no damage to their mouths when chewing at trees and twigs such as thornsGiraffes in captivity are generally fed on alfalfa hay and pellets, apples, carrots, bananas and browse (elm and alder are favourites)Giraffe BehaviourFemale giraffes associate in groups of a dozen or so members, occasionally including a few younger males

Male giraffes tend to live in bachelor herds, with older males often leading solitary lives

A individual giraffe can join or leave the herd at any time and for no particular reasonBecause giraffes are so widely scattered, it may seem that they do not keep in contact with each other, however, this is not true

A giraffes keen eyesight means they can keep an eye on their neighbours even at a distanceFemale giraffes spend just over half a 24 hour day browsing, male giraffes spend less time doing this – about 43% of the time that the female does

Night is mostly spent lying down ruminating, especially in the hours after dark and before dawnMale giraffes spend about 22% of the 24 hours walking, compared to 13% for female giraffes

The rest of the time male giraffes are searching for a female giraffe to mate with

Giraffe herds do not have a leader and individual giraffes show no particular preferences for others in the herdYoung giraffes are never left alone, however, they are looked after in a kind of nursery group where the females help look after each others calves (baby giraffes)Giraffes spend up to half their time feeding and most of the remainder is taken up either by searching for food or slowly digesting what they have eaten

Sometimes giraffes sleep during the daytime, often while standingGiraffes normally lie down only at night, tucking their feet under the body and usually keeping the head upright

However, when a giraffe is sleeping, something it does only for just a few minutes at a time, it curves its neck around and rests its head on or near its behindOne of the most fascinating elements of giraffe behaviour is the duel between males fighting for mating partners

Giraffe duels are among the most extraordinary in the animal kingdomDuels begin when two males approach each other and engage in rubbing and intertwining their necks

If not, the rivals begin to exchange blows with their heads, using their short horns to tackle each otherEach giraffe braces its front legs and swings its head upward and over its shoulder

If a blow lands solidly, the giraffe may stagger under the impact and in rare cases may even collapse onto the ground

More often the contest breaks off after a few minutes and the loser simply walks awayGiraffe ReproductionThe Giraffe breeding season can occur at any time during the year

However, births in the wild usually happen during the dry season and births in captivity can happen all year round

Giraffes reach sexual maturity in captivity at around 3 – 4 years old, however, in the wild, males do not usually breed until they are 6 – 7 years old

In contrast to the male breeding age, females must be physically larger to carry offspringWhen 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 themGestation 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 fallNewborn giraffes are often on their feet within 20 minutes and are soon feeding on their mothers milk

Calves can walk about an hour after birth and can run within 24 hours of birth

Giraffe calves are about 2 metres (6 feet) tall at birth and weigh 104 – 154 poundsGiraffe calves grow about 3 centimetres tall each day during the first week and double their height in their first yearBy the age of one year giraffe calves can measure 10 feet tall

Giraffe calves are weaned at one year and become fully independent by 15 months of age

Female giraffe calves are fully grown by age five and male giraffe calves by the age of sevenYoung giraffes may suckle for up to a year, however, they start to sample plants just a few weeks after birth

Giraffe calves are ready to leave the protection of their mother after 15 – 18 months of developmentGiraffe PredatorsAdult giraffes generally have no predators other than lions and humans, as their huge hooves are very effective in defending against predators

Giraffes are more vulnerable when they are lying down or drinking, because this gives lions the opportunity to leap up and seize them by the nose or throatNewly born calves are at much greater risk

Despite their mothers best efforts to protect them, over 50 percent of all giraffe newborns are killed by hyenas and big cats such as lions and leopards during the first month of their life

In captivity, giraffes have lived over the age of 30 years, however, their maximum life span in the wild is about 25 yearsGiraffe SoundsGiraffes are usually silent although they can bellow, grunt or snort when alarmed, as when confronted by lions, and can also moo in distressHold your mouse over the giraffe photo and you may be able to hear a giraffe grunt

(ie only)Calves (young giraffes) bleat and make a mewing call, cows (female giraffes) seeking lost calves will bellow and courting bulls (male giraffes) may emit a raucous cough

Giraffes also give alarm snorts, whereby moaning, snoring, hissing and flute like sounds have been reported

Giraffes also give out a grunting sound that sounds like a pigGiraffe AdaptationsGiraffes have amazing adaptions that help them with their lifestyle in the wild

Because giraffes grow to a very tall height, it gives them access to a level of foliage beyond reach of all other large browsing animals all except possibly, the elephantAlong with their height, giraffes have an incredible array of adaptations

For example, their skin coloring provides excellent camouflage, as it has many different patches of variable size and colorGiraffes skin is very thick, so it provides ample protection and insulation

Also, the giraffe’s long eyelids keep out ants and sense thorns on the branches of the trees from which they browse

The valves in veins of the neck control a huge rush of blood to the head when leaning over; this prevents unconsciousnessThere is also a network of capillaries in the brain called the ‘wonder-net’

(Also see ‘Giraffe Anatomy‘ for more facts about the giraffes neck)A giraffes tongue is over 18 inches (46 centimetres) long, and the roof of the mouth is grooved to easily strip leaves off branches

Since giraffes are extremely efficient at processing nutrients and liquids from food, they can survive without water for long periods of time

Giraffes ruminate day or night, with periods of sleep in betweenGiraffes also rest with their eyes open, standing or lying for three to five minutes at a time

Throughout the night, a giraffe may deeply sleep for five to 10 minutes lying down, yet they rarely sleep more than 20 minutes total per dayGiraffe Conservation StatusLike many of Africa’s large mammals, giraffes have declined in numbers and in range over the last century

At one time, herds of over 100 animals were common in savanna regions across the continent, however, today concentrations like these exist only in East Africa particularly Tanzania Serengeti National ParkThe decline of giraffe populations has largely been due to hunting

In Africa, the giraffe is a traditional source of hide and hair and also of tough but nutritious meatHunting of giraffes has not yet had a catastrophic effect, as it has on some of Africa’s big-game animals, but it is a cause for concern

The natural habitat of the giraffe is also being impacted more and more by human activities, reducing the animals rangeThe giraffe is currently a protected species throughout most of its range and is classed as conservation-dependent by the World Conservation Union (IUCN)

The giraffes prospects for survival are good for those living in national parks and game reserves, but for animals living outside these areas the future is less secureGiraffe FAQsHow tall is a giraffe?The giraffe is the tallest living animal on land

Fully grown giraffes stand 43 to 57 m (141 to 187 ft) tall, with males taller than females

Despite its long neck and legs, the giraffe’s body is relatively shortA giraffe’s neck can be up to 24 m (79 ft) in length

The giraffe’s elongation of the neck largely takes place after birth, because giraffe mothers would have a difficult time giving birth to young with the same neck proportions as adultsIt has been suggested that competitive pressure from smaller browsers, like kudu, steenbok and impala, encouraged the elongation of the giraffe’s neck, as it enabled giraffes to reach food that competitors could not

However, they have been recorded communicating using snorts, sneezes, coughs, snores, hisses, bursts, moans, grunts, growls and flute-like sounds

During nighttime, giraffes appear to hum to each other above the infrasound rangeDuring courtship, males emit loud coughs

Females also call their young by bellowing

Calves will emit snorts, bleats, mooing and mewing soundsHow long does a giraffe live?Giraffes have an unusually long lifespan compared to other ruminants, and can live to up to 38 years

Adult giraffes are not usually preyed on because of their size, eyesight and powerful kicks, however, lions can prey on smaller individuals and giraffes are a common food source for big cats

Adult females are a lot more likely to survive if the group in which they socialize is biggerGiraffe calves are much more vulnerable than adults and are also preyed on by leopards, spotted hyenas and wild dogs

A quarter to a half of giraffe calves reach adulthood

Calves born during the dry season have higher survival ratesWhat do giraffes eat?Giraffes are herbivores and are known to eat up to 60 different species of plant

When stressed, giraffes may chew the bark off branchesA giraffe eats around 34 kg (75 lb) of foliage daily

In fact, they can survive for up to three weeks without drinking waterHowever, when they do come across clean water, they must splay their front legs (which are longer than the back) in order to get their head close enough to the ground to drinkGiraffe requires less food than many other herbivores because the foliage it eats has more concentrated nutrients and it has a more efficient digestive system

As a ruminant, giraffes first chew food, then swallow it for processing and then visibly passes the half-digested cud up the neck and back into the mouth to chew againTheir height helps them to reach branches and leaves that other animals cannot

Competition for food is thought to be the main reason why their necks are so long

They use their prehensile lips and flattened, grooved teeth are able to strip the leaves off the branchesHow do giraffes sleep?Giraffes usually sleep lying down, although standing sleeps have been recorded, particularly in older individuals

In captivity, a giraffe sleeps intermittently around 46 hours per day, mostly at night, but in the wild they can sleep as little as 5 to 30 minutes in a 24 hour period

The most common amount of sleep for giraffes is between one and two hoursGiraffes also go through intermittent short “deep sleep” phases

These are characterised by the giraffe bending its neck backwards and resting its head on the hip or thighWhere do giraffes live?Giraffes are native to Kenya, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Uganda, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Angola, and South Africa

Most giraffes live in East Africa, although some are found in the reserves of Southern Africa

The largest concentration of these animals are found in National ParksThe different subspecies of giraffe live in different countries in Africa, but certain species have declining populations in areas, mostly due to habitat loss and poaching

The Uganda giraffe historically lived in western Kenya, Uganda, and southern Sudan, but now survives in only a few small, isolated populations in Kenya and UgandaThe Nigerian giraffe is now found in just one area of Niger

The reticulated giraffe lives in Somalia, southern Ethiopia, and northern KenyaGiraffes usually inhabit savannahs and woodlands, where there are large amounts of foliage for them to feed on

Their coloring helps them to blend in with their surroundings, but they are so large that they are safer in numbers instead of trying to hideBecause giraffes feed on vegetation that is high in the trees but also too woody for the mouths of smaller herbivores, they are also able to remain in areas where domestic grazing has obliterated the plant species close to the groundWhat is a group of giraffes called?A group of giraffes is called a tower!

Giraffes are social animals and are usually found in groups, often called herds

The groups vary in size and composition, but can range in size from one to up to 66 individuals!

Giraffe towers tend to be sex-segregated, although mixed-sex groups made of adult females and young males also occurFemales are more selective about who they associate with from the opposite sex, and many herds are made up of mothers and their young

As they get older, males become more solitary but may also associate in pairs or with female groupsHow does a giraffe move?Giraffes have two ways of moving, a loping walk and a gallop

When they walk, the giraffes move both feet on one side of their body in unison, followed by both feet on the other sideWhen they run, giraffes move the front feet together, then the back feet, swinging the hind feet up and planting them in front of the forefeet

While running, the neck of a giraffe moves backward and forward to keep the animal balanced

Giraffes have a top speed of about 56 kilometres per hour (35 miles per hour), however, because its legs are so long a galloping giraffe does not appear to be going very fastGiraffes are not great travelers, despite their long legs

Giraffes cannot walk over swampy ground because their hooves quickly sink and they very rarely wade across rivers

To reach ground level for example, when drinking a giraffe has to splay its front legs at an angle of almost 45 degreesA 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 pressureGiraffes also have a series of valves in their neck veins that ensure that blood always flows from the head back towards the heart, even when this means going against gravityWhen giraffes do bend down to drink at water holes, it is commonly done in pairs

This is so that one giraffe can drink, whilst the other keeps an eye open for predatorsMore Fascinating Animals to Learn AboutMasai GiraffeReticulated GiraffeNew World MonkeysOld World MonkeysMonkeysOld World Tarantula Spiders

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