Giraffe in exhibit

Giraffe

Scientific Name

Giraffa camelopardalis

Geographic Range

Sub-Saharan Africa

Diet

Leaves (mostly from acacia, mimosa, and wild apricot trees)
Giraffe in exhibit
IUCN Conservation Status: VULNERABLE IUCN Conservation Status: VULNERABLE

About This Animal

Giraffes are the world’s tallest mammals. Males average 17 feet tall while females are 14 feet tall, and their weight can range from 1,200–4,250 pounds. The colors and patterns of individual giraffe coats vary, but they generally have dark reddish or chestnut brown patches surrounded by light tan except on their light-colored undersides. They also have a mane that runs down the length of their neck and tufts of hair on the tail.

Giraffes have good eyesight and a large vision range as a result of their long necks, which contain seven neck vertebrae (the same number as in humans) and a series of valves that regulate blood flow to the head. Giraffe tongues are around 21 inches long, and combined with prehensile lips, let them easily pluck leaves from trees when they feed. With their long legs, giraffes can travel quickly when needed, reaching speeds of 35 miles per hour over short distances and 10 miles per hour over longer ones.

However, they spend most of the time eating—up to 16 to 20 hours per day, with the largest individuals consuming 75 pounds of leaves each day. They get most of their water from plants, which is advantageous because they are vulnerable to predators when positioned awkwardly to drink from bodies of water.

Giraffes live in small groups of 2 to 10 individuals, with males banding together in bachelor groups when younger. Breeding may happen year-round, although offspring tend to be born in the dry season. Generally, one infant is born at a time after a 15-month gestation, weighing 100–150 pounds at birth and measuring 5.5–6.5 feet in height. Young giraffes can stand within 20 minutes of being born. They are independent after about one year.

Nine giraffe subspecies exist in fragmented populations across a wide range of habitats in sub-Saharan Africa, including savannas, deserts, and woodlands. Since the 1980s, their populations have decreased by 36 to 40 percent. Major threats to the species include habitat loss, human civil unrest, illegal hunting, ecological changes from mining, climate change, and other human-induced processes.

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