We explain everything about giraffes, where they live, their diet, and other characteristics. Also, their reproduction and how long they live
What is a giraffe?
The giraffe is a species of quadrupedal mammal of African origin, recognizable by its spotted fur and its long neck, capable of reaching 2 meters between the torso and the head. With the scientific name Giraffa camelopardalis, it is a very iconic animal of the African fauna and also the tallest animal known on the entire planet since can reach between 5 and 6 meters in height fully in adulthood.
Giraffe’s name comes from the Arabic ziraafa, translatable as “high”, and the Romans who knew it baptized it as Camelopardalis, that is, a mixture of camel and leopard, undoubtedly due to the color of its fur. The first giraffe known to the West was brought to Europe by the Roman emperor Julius Caesar (100-44 BC), on his return from his campaigns in Egypt and Asia Minor.
The evolutionary origin of these animals places them in the Miocene, around eight million years ago, and together with the okapis, they are the only non-extinct species of the giraffe family (Giraffidae). Giraffes are beautiful and striking animals, which were already represented in ancient Egyptian tombs. Its preservation, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), constitutes a minor reason for concern, since giraffes continue to be abundant in the wild or captivity.
Still, the decline of up to 40% in the total population of the species between 1895 and 2015 is alarming. See also: Wild animals
The giraffe is characterized by the following:
- It is a large quadrupedal animal., whose weight varies between 600 and 1500 kg, and whose height can reach 6 meters. Its most recognizable features are its long neck, capable of extending for 2 meters, and its mottled, yellowish-brown fur.
- Giraffes are great runners, capable of reaching speeds of the order of 50 kmph. in short distances. They are social animals, which usually move slowly through the African grasslands in groups of six individuals.
- They have a prehensile tongue that extended can reach 50 cm in length and is black-purple. With it, the animal can catch the leaves of the trees that it reaches thanks to its height, or clean itself.
- They also have a one-meter-long tail. culminating in a lock of long, dark hair.
- As they age, males of the species develop small cranial bumps thanks to calcium deposits.
- They have an acute sense of smell and hearing, and their eyes arranged one on each side of the head is capable of perceiving color. Also, their nostrils, unlike us, can be closed at will.
- The long neck of giraffes has a system of unusually elastic valves and blood vessels that allow you to move your head without fainting.
Where do giraffes live?
Giraffes have a presence in almost every zoo in the world, but their traditional habitat is African grasslands or plains, and even open woodland, where they live in nomadic groups of around 20 individuals.
Its main distribution is in western sub-Saharan Africa, southeastern Africa, and the regions of Angola and South Africa. Traditionally, up to 9 subspecies of giraffes have been identified and distributed throughout this territory.
What do giraffes eat?
Giraffes are ruminant herbivores, whose long necks allow them to reach the highest foliage of trees, without incurring much competition with other herbivorous animals. These leaves are not only rich in nutrients and calcium, but also feed the giraffe more than other herbivores because it has a particularly efficient digestive system among ruminant mammals.
Their favorite trees to eat are the acacia, and the vegetable families of the Commiphora and the Terminalia.
How do giraffes reproduce?
Like all mammals, giraffes reproduce sexually and through viviparity. The males compete with each other for access to the females and usually only the most dominant ones manage to reproduce, after having defeated the others in a neck-and-neck fight, that is, through the “necking” typical of the species.
Giraffe gestation lasts more than a year., at the end of which they give birth to a single offspring, who is ready to walk shortly after birth. A newborn giraffe measure around 1.80 meters and is usually suckled by its mother for just a few months, at most a year.
How long do giraffes live?
In its wild habitat, A giraffe lives an average of 25 years., since they are habitual prey for lions, Nile crocodiles, and leopards. In captivity, on the other hand, they can live well beyond this limit.