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Giraffe

Giraffe – The Tallest Land Animal

Of all the African animals, the Giraffe is one of the most recognizable. The giraffe is an even toed ungulate (hoofed animal) and has the distinction of being the world’s tallest land animal living today. Aside from its strikingly long legs and neck, the giraffe is easily distinguishable by its leopard-like patches on its coat and its ossicones, which are the horn-like protrusions on its head. There are nine sub-species of giraffe and each one has a different pattern of patches on its fur.

Giraffe

Having a much wider range than some African animals; extending north to south from Chad to South Africa and east to west from Somalia to Niger. They make their homes in grasslands, savannas, and even in open woodland areas throughout the continent wherever they roam, they prefer open areas rather than those that are densely wooded. One species, the Angolan giraffe, is even found in the harsh desert environment.

The main diet of the giraffe is leaves and twigs that they get from browsing in trees. They prefer trees of the Acacia, Terminalia, and Commiphora genera because they provide the protein and calcium necessary to sustain the giraffe’s incredible growth rate, but they will also consume shrubs, fruit, and grasses. An adult giraffe can consume approximately 75 pounds of foliage each day and although they are herbivores giraffes have been seen visiting the kills of other African animals to lick the dried meat from the bones. They require less sustenance than some other herbivores because their preferred food has a very high concentration of nutrients and they have a very efficient digestive system. Giraffes do most of their feeding for the first few hours of daylight and the last few hours before nightfall.

Giraffe and Zebras

Giraffes, like many other African animals, find safety in numbers. They typically congregate in groups, but the make-up of the group is open and changes frequently. The giraffe is polygamous, with a few mature males mating with any fertile females in the area. They have no set breeding season and mating can occur throughout the year whenever a female is in estrus.

After a gestation period of 400 to 460 days, a single calf is born; twins do occur, but it is very rare. The mother gives birth from a standing position and the calf, which is born head first, drops around 5 to 6 feet to the ground. The fall severs the umbilical cord and the mother will groom the calf and help it to stand. The calf can stand and run around after just a few hours and will spend the first few weeks of its life hiding, but is capable of running with the mother just 10 hours after it is born. The maternal bond is widely varied, with some calves suckling for as little as one month while others continue for up to one year.

As a whole, the giraffe is considered of least concern by the IUCN, but two subspecies, the Rothschild giraffe and the West African giraffe have been listed as endangered. Privately owned game preserves have played a large role in preserving the giraffe population in the southern part of the continent.