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Giraffe Fact Sheet

  • Latin Name

    Giraffa camelopardalis rothschild
  • Class

  • Order

  • Range

    Giraffes can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Status

    Common. Lincoln Park Zoo participates in the Reticulated and Rothschild Giraffe Species Survival Plan®, a shared management effort by institutions throughout the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

  • Habitat

    This herbivorous species prefers open woodlands, plains and savannas.

  • Niche

    Giraffes use their extremely long (up to 18 inches), manipulative tongues to gather leaves in the wild. The tongue is flexible enough to pluck preferred acacia leaves while avoiding the acacia tree's thorns.

  • Life History

    Giraffes gather in herds of 2-40 individuals. These groupings are fluid, with members frequently coming and going. Males will compete for access to fertile females through “necking,” a behavior where two males entwine their necks and wrestle to determine which is stronger. Females give birth after 14-15 months of gestation, and offspring can measure six feet at birth.

  • Special Adaptations

    • The giraffe's long tail ends in a large tuft of hair, which the species uses as a flyswatter to drive away insects.
    • To pump blood up to the brain, giraffes make use of a heart that weighs up to 24 pounds. Elastic blood vessels in the mammal's neck stretch when it lowers its head to drink to prevent an unwanted rush to the head.
    • While the giraffe's neck is much longer than a human's, both structures are composed of the same number of bones: seven. The vertebrae in a giraffe's neck are simply much longer than those in a human's. This extra length is thought to have evolved to help the species spot predators on the plains of Africa.


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