Seeing giraffes in the wild is pretty much guaranteed for anyone on Renedian tours that visit Etosha National Park or Victoria Falls. Their distinctive appearance makes them a unique fixture out on the savanna.
Here are some amazing facts about giraffes to tuck for your next meeting with one of these statuesque mammals.
- Giraffe’s are the tallest mammals in the world with an average height of 4 to 6 metres (14 to 19’). Even the babies, at 1.8 m (6’), are taller than most humans.
- Adult’s 1.8 m (6’) long legs, taller than many humans, allow them to run up to 56 kph (35 mph) for short distances. They can cruise for longer distances at 16 kph (10 mph).
- Even their tongues are long—up to 53 cm. (21”). Their tongues are also specially adapted to let them forage on trees that others avoid, such as thorny acacias.
- The average lifespan of a giraffe in the wild is 25 years.
- Adult giraffes weigh (794 to 1,360 kg.) (1,750 to 3,000 lbs.).
- There are about 80,000 giraffes in Africa. They’re native to 15 countries, living in treed areas in the arid savanna zones south of the Sahara.
- Giraffe “horns” are actually knobs covered with skin and hair above the eyes that protect the head from injury.
- Giraffes have unusually elastic blood vessels with a series of valves that help offset the sudden buildup of blood (and to prevent fainting) when its head is raised, lowered, or swung quickly.
- Giraffes have one of the shortest sleep requirements of any mammal, spending between 10 minutes and two hours asleep per day.
- No two giraffes have the same spot pattern, although giraffes from the same area appear similar.
- Giraffes get most of their water from lush leaves and need to drink only every few days. That’s fortunate because their long legs make drinking difficult and dangerous. The awkward splayed position created when they bend over makes them vulnerable to predators. Predators are humans, lions, leopards, hyenas, and crocodiles.
- A giraffe eats hundreds of pounds of leaves each week and must travel to find enough food. They can eat up to 30kg. (66 lb.) of foliage per day but can get by on as little as 6,8 kg. (15 lb.).
- Like cows, giraffes eat most of the time, regurgitate food, and chew it as cud.
- Giraffes spend most of their lives standing up. They even sleep standing up.
- Females give birth standing up. It’s an abrupt landing for the babies—and we thought spanking was a shock!
- Gestation period is between 14 and 16 months.
- Babies can stand within 30 minutes. After 10 hours, they can run along with their family.
- Calves can grow as much as 2.5 cm (1”) per day. Only one in four babies makes it to one year.
- Young giraffes hang out in nursery groups, socializing and sleeping while their mothers forage within sight. By the time they’re six months old, they’re relatively independent of their mothers.
- Giraffes are social and usually hang out in groups of six.
- Giraffes rarely fight, although males will butt necks. “Necking” rarely lasts more than a few minutes and rarely results in injury.
Photo credit: John Colyer