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Giraffe

Range:

Baringo Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi)- Northwest Kenya and Southeast Uganda. Formerly a wider distribution through Africa. Their presence in the Central Sahara is attested by rock paintings in caves; increasing aridity expelled them from these now desert regions. They have been exterminated over most of West Africa through overshooting. Reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata)- South and East Kenya from Mt. Kenya and Tana River and northward into Ethiopia.


Habitat:

Dry open country, covered with bush and acacia; shuns forests and swamps. A river forms an impassable barrier.


Characteristics:

Adult males usually are about 17 feet tall, weighing as much as 3,000 pounds. The largest male on record was over 19 feet tall. The heart of an adult can be over 2 feet long. It can pump 20 gallons of blood every minute. Large males probably eat about 75 pounds of food a day. When it drinks, it can take in 10 gallons of water at one time. Every time it raises its head, it has to lift 550 pounds; the combined weight of head and neck. The neck of a large giraffe can be 6 l/2 feet long. The tail can be 6 feet 8 inches when the 3-foot tassel of hair on the end is included. Hair in the tail tassel is 10 to 20 times thicker than hair on the human head. The tongue can be up to 20 inches long. The head can be 2 feet long. The pattern of spots on every giraffe is unique and is used to tell one from another.

  • Baringo - One of the largest of giraffes, similar to reticulated - white lines are wider and neck may be blotched instead of narrowly reticulated. Legs lack any markings below the knees and hocks.
  • Reticulated - Considered a full species by many. Has very large rufous blotches separated by very narrow white lines (reticulations).

Large bony protuberances on forehead. This is especially well marked in the Baringo; old males often have two more posterior horns, small horns immediately behind the main pair, thus giving the giraffe a set of five horns. Both male and female have "horns" which are present at birth; projections of solid bone are fused to the skull and are skin-covered. The horns are called ossicones. Male horns are larger than female. Females and young males have hair on top because males use their horns to fight and the hair is usually rubbed off the ends. Contrary to general belief, giraffes are not voiceless, but are in fact able to utter low moans and snorts. But noises apparently are not much used to communicate with each other. Hearing is acute, sight excellent, but the acuteness of the sense of smell is questionable. They have a "wondernet" below the brain which expands and reduces pressure when the giraffe puts its head down. At the same time, valves in the jugular vein close, trapping the blood and preventing it from flowing the wrong way. When the giraffe lifts its head, valves open and release the blood to continue circulating.


Giraffe Click to View Bigger Picture

Behavior:

They live in herds of from 2 or 3 to 70. Gallop at a good speed (to 40 mph, as fast as a racehorse). Both forelimbs and both hind-limbs move together, instead of diagonally as a horse. When moving slowly, they amble along. When most animals run, rear legs do most of the pushing. When giraffes run, the front legs do most of the pushing. This is one reason why they have such large muscles in their shoulders. It is vulnerable to attack when drinking because of the need to spread its front legs far apart in a series of peculiar movements. Males fight a great deal by engaging in neck or head slamming. Blows can be very heavy and often are perceptible some distance away. To defend themselves, giraffes kick with their fore legs. They have even been known to kill a lion with a kick when defending their babies.


Reproduction:

Courting behavior is relatively rare: the most common sexual behavior is urine testing, the male collects some urine of the female in his mouth or tongue. Apparently there is no breeding season, the young being born all year round after a period of gestation of 14-15 months. Twins are rare. The female gives birth in a standing position. A newborn weighs about 110 lbs; may be 6 feet tall; can rise to its feet and feed within minutes of birth; can run before it is 24 hours old. During its first week, a baby can grow more than one inch a day, and will be almost 10 feet tall by the time it is a year old. Research indicates that a weak maternal instinct may cause many lost calves.


Interesting Facts:

The first giraffe exhibited was in Rome in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar. It was thought to have a camel for a mother and a leopard of a father. The ancient Romans called it a "camel-leopard". (From this, its scientific name - camelopardalis). The only living relative of the giraffe is the okapi.


About Our Animals:

The Zoo currently houses three giraffes.

  • Daphne (female): born April 30, 1985 received September 19, 1985
  • Riley (male): born August 20, 2003 received June 30, 2004 (temporarily sent to the Oregon Zoo while we build our new Africa Savanna exhibit)
  • Kipenzi (female): born October 23, 2003 received May 18, 2005
  • Pogo (female): born September 26, 2002 received May 18, 2005

Giraffe Click to View Bigger Picture

Did YOU Know?
Giraffes have been known to kill a lion with a kick when defending their babies.

Giraffe
Range
Class: mammal
Genus: Giraffa
Species: camelopardalis
Height: About 17 feet.
Weight: Up to 3,000 pounds
Average Lifespan: 15
Wild Diet: Browses on leaves and twigs of a large variety of tall trees, especially acacia and mimosa. Long neck allows them to browse up to 20 feet above ground, collecting twigs and leaves with their long prehensile upper lip and extensible tongue. Thorns do not harm them.
Zoo Diet: Alfalfa, hay, grain pellets, diced vegetables as well as a variety of tree leaves found locally.
Predators: Lions, man, leopards sometimes take young
This is an ssp animal
USFWS Status: Not Listed
CITES Status: Not Listed
Where at the Zoo? Giraffe Building


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