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Safari Africa Animal Fact Sheet
Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata

North-eastern Kenya, eastern Sudan and Eritrea

Long neck makes it possible to reach high succulent foliage. Has 7 vertebrae in neck (same as humans). Neck length imposes challenge to respiration. They breathe more than 20 times a minute at rest. Humans breathe 12-15 times a minute. Females tend to be shorter and weigh less than males.

Heart is about 6.5' above hooves and 10' below brain. Pumping force of blood is twice as much as domestic cow in order to get blood to brain. Have thick tight skin on lower half of each leg to maintain high extravascular pressure. To maintain blood pressure in the brain, giraffes have a meshed network of narrow blood vessels. Without this network they would faint when they bent down to drink, due to rush of blood.

Skull is heavily armored in male. As he ages, total mass of head increases 2.2 lbs. a year.

Digestion is improved by remastication, the act of masticatin, or chewing, again or repeatedly. When cud (food) is regurgitated up long esophagus for remastication the lump is visible much like a rising elevator.

With their long legs, can walk 15' per stride. Can reach speeds up to 35 mph. Able to out run a lion. Spotted coat is for camouflage. Each pattern as distinctive as fingerprints. Mouth is well adapted to diet. It's 18 inch tongue is covered with thick saliva, which enables giraffes to pluck spiny shoots. Shoots are pulled obliquely through gap in molars and canines stripping and flattening leaves. Its tongue is long enough to clean its eyes. Giraffes are able to communicate with one another by tossing their heads and forcing air through their long trachea and through the small larynx. Sound is below our hearing range.

They are pacifists, but if under attack they can kill a lion with one blow of their hooves. Giraffes appear to form individual friendships. If group stares in same direction with ears pointing forward, it is a sign that a predator is near. Bulls, frequently alone, roam widely (12 miles a day) in search of females in estrus. Largest bulls do the mating, dominating smaller bulls by necking and clubbing. Dominant bull will stand tall neck vertical, with legs stiffened forward. If opponent does not back off a necking contest results. Both bulls entwine necks, like arm wrestling, also butt heads for 30 minutes or more. If become violent, which is seldom, will swing their head in 11.5' arch aiming for the underbelly.

Lions are main predator. Their strategy is to drive the victim through broken ground forcing it to slow down or stumble. Calves and single males are usual victim. Single males are victims because they are young, usually alone and looking for mates. Also, their splay-legged drinking habit makes them vulnerable. Calves fall prey to lions, hyenas, and even the Nile crocodile. Only about half of calves born make it to adulthood. Humans still hunt giraffes for food and to make popular giraffe hair bracelets.

Ancient Romans called giraffes "camelopardalis," and said they were a hybrid of camel bodies and leopard spots. Closest relative is Okapi. Horns are not really horns, but bony masses covered with skin and tufts of hair, may be relics of antlers from ancestors.

Giraffe Habitat Sponsored By:

Habitat: Open woodland and wooded grassland
Diet: Feeds mainly on Acacia and Combretum trees. Eats over 100 different plants including flowers, vines, and herbs depending on availability. Needs 75 lbs. of vegetation per day. Drinks every 2 or 3 days. Goes for weeks without water. Can drink 12 gallons at one time. Spends 16-20 hours a day feeding.
Status: n/a
Approximate Dimensions of Adult:

Height: 17 to 18 ft. to horn tips
Weight: 1,700 (females) to 4,200 lbs. (males)

Lifespan: 25 years
Reproduction & Offspring: Gestation is about 15 months. During birth, mother paces. Baby drops 6' to ground, feet first, breaking umbilical chord on the way. Weighs 100-150 lbs. and is 6' tall. Stands on wobbly legs within 15 min. Begins to nurse in 20 min. Cows, sub-adult males, and calves form groups of 20 or more. Calves are raised in a nursery group hidden in the trees against heat of the day.


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