Giraffes Galore

Thornicroft giraffe, Zambia

Thornicroft giraffe, Zambia

Most people are familiar with giraffes as the tall, long-necked animal who lives in Africa.  And although this is correct, giraffes don’t all look the same, they are in fact very different from one another.

 

There are nine different subspecies in the Giraffidae Family (click here for more info).  They live in all different parts of Africa and are distinguished from one another by their coat patterns.

 

Reticulated Giraffe, Kenya

Reticulated Giraffe, Kenya

Although each subspecies varies in size, the average height of giraffes is 16-20 feet tall; the males generally weigh 2,600 pounds, while the females weigh around 1,800 pounds.

 

The tallest mammal in the world, adult giraffes do not have too many animal predators because they can see so far.  Crocodiles can be a problem for adults drinking water.  But it’s the offspring who are vulnerable primarily to lions, wild dogs, and hyenas.  Predators have to survive a hard, mean kick from the parent.

 

Named Twiga in Swahili, they are protected now in most of their range, but hunting and loss of habitat have diminished the giraffe population. While the entire species holds a “Least Concern” conservation status, some of the subspecies are dwindling close to extinction.  Of the two giraffe subspecies photographed here, there are only 1,500 Thornicroft individuals and 5,000 Reticulated individuals left in the wild.

 

They can often be seen in loose herds feeding on acacia treetops.  With a flexible upper lip and long prehensile tongue, they gobble down leaves on the world’s thorniest branches.  It seems impossible for any living being to eat leaves among those three inch, spiky thorns, but the giraffe moves through a treetop without incident.  Their special tongue is long (20 inches) and black; and is covered with papillae (protuberances)  to protect against the thorns.  Seeing that black tongue through the binoculars is pretty fun.  It’s actually sort of dark purple-black.

 

Thornicroft Giraffe, Zambia

Thornicroft Giraffe, Zambia

Unlike horses who gave various gaits, giraffes only walk or gallop.  When they do, their long legs and short trunk distribute their weight on the right or the left, creating an ambling walk.  The long neck moves in synchrony, always maintaining the balance of this towering animal.  Running is even more dramatic because the long tasseled tail pops from side to side.

 

 

Thornicroft Giraffe, Botswana

Thornicroft Giraffe, Botswana

I love all the animals on the African savannah.  But sitting in that safari jeep as I listen to the guides talking in Swahili, when I hear “Twiga,” I light up and get ready.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

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36 thoughts on “Giraffes Galore

  1. Yet again, I know something Interesting for having read your post which I did not know before. Perhaps I had been lacking in my study of the natural world, knowing nothing about the tongue of the giraffe. But you fixed that for me. And I thank you for it. I mean it. Thanks Jet! 🙂 Plus, as always, I was treated to some awesome pictures. Thanks Athena. 🙂

    • Oh yeah, the giraffe is a favorite of many, including me. I smiled that yours is the hyena. The hyenas aren’t exactly the most loveable creatures, but they are fascinating and wonderful. Thanks so much, Lorna, for your comment! 🙂

  2. Fascinating posting as always…and a great choice of photos to show the giraffes in different situations. I love the group gathered around the tree. It looks as if they were interested in you, too!

    • Yes, that group gathered around the tree are the reticulated, as you probably noticed; and that was my favorite coat of all the subspecies. I think it’s so sleek. Dear Nan, thank you so much for your visit and comment. 😀

  3. Great photos and information. What beautiful and fascinating creatures giraffes are. It always amazes me to see the myriad ways each species specifically evolves to in order to adapt and live in its environment.

  4. They are such beautiful and unique animals. I have a friend that shot one for a trophy. I really was sad he did this. I was asked to use my Jeep to take it to the taxidermist, so I actually had a giraffe in my Jeep. This same friend got a baby zebra for his farm and I also had it in my Jeep in a dog crate. I bet may people cannot say that.

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