Description of Animal
Giraffes are the tallest mammals in the world. They grow up to 18 feet tall. They weigh between 2000 and 4000 pounds. Their bodies from front to hind legs are about 5 feet long.
Giraffes are known for a beautiful pattern on their skin: large, brown spots on the yellowish background. Differences in pattern divide giraffes into two main groups: reticulated giraffes and blotched giraffes.
The spots of reticulated giraffes are large, very similar in shape, and not much of the background is visible. It seems that the animal is all brown, but it is covered with a yellowish net. This kind of giraffe has no pattern below the knees.
Blotched giraffes have a pattern that is not so regular. The spots have odd shapes and sizes. You can see more of the background, and its color is darker. Blotched giraffes are divided into smaller groups still depending on how their pattern looks like.
The pattern of each giraffe is unique, and there are no two identical giraffes in the world.
Pattern of Blotched Giraffe
Pattern of Reticulated Giraffe
Giraffes have a very long neck. It is usually about 8 to 10 feet long. Just like a human's neck it contains only 7 vertebrae bones (neck bones), what makes the giraffe's neck hard to bend. Along the neck there is a short, stiff mane.
Giraffe's legs are long and thin. They are about 5 to 6 feet long, ended witch hooves. Front legs are placed between hind (back) legs. Such a long legs make giraffes very good runners. They can run as fast as 35 miles per hour.
Giraffe's head may seem small compared to the body, but it really is a pretty large size: about 2 feet long. Lips are very flexible. Inside the mouth there is a very long, prehensile tongue.
Each giraffe has at least 2 horns on its head. The horns are made out of bone and covered with skin. There is also a rather large bump (called central swelling) between the giraffe's eyes. Sometimes it becomes so large that it looks like an additional horn.
Giraffe's tail is about 3 feet long, and it ends with a tassel of hair.
Scientists call giraffes diurnal and nocturnal animals. It means that giraffes enjoy day and night hours. They do sleep, but only about 3 to 4 hours a day. The rest of the time they stay awake usually walking and browsing in the trees. They are gentle animals, who like peaceful and quiet life, and they almost never make a noise. Only sometimes they grunt or snort to communicate each other.
They have a very good vision and mostly communicate with their eyes.
Giraffes live in groups called herds. There are usually 5 to 10 of them in the herd.
Giraffes live for 20 to 25 years, and their spots get darker with the age.
Differences between male and female giraffe
A male giraffe is called a bull. He is usually taller and heavier than the female. A bull is 17 to 18 feet tall, and his weight is 3000 to 4000 pounds.
The female, called a cow, grows to be 15 to 16 feet tall, and her body weight is 2000 to 2500 pounds.
Male's horns are thick and have no hair, but female's are thin and tufted at the ends. Females have only 2 horns, but males can have more of them. Some males can have even 5 horns. Also the central swelling between the eyes is much bigger in males than it is in females.
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Giraffes are herbivores, which means that they only eat plants. Their long necks let them reach the tree tops where they browse on the leaves from the trees. Their favorite foods are leaves from mimosa and acacia trees. They eat from other trees and bushes too, but they always choose the leaves they like the most. They pass on grass because they don't like it, and besides it is difficult for them to reach the ground.
Giraffe has a very long, prehensile tongue. Prehensile means that it is made for holding , wrapping around the objects. The tongue is black in colour, and it can be up to 20 inches long. This tongue is like a giraffe's tool for picking up the leaves. Giraffes curl the tongue around the leaves and pick them up. It is interesting that acacia trees have a large, sharp thorns, but the giraffe is able to pick up the leaves and not to get hurt by the thorns. It proves that the tongue is a very good tool.
Giraffes spend most of the day browsing in the trees.They do it for 16 to 20 hours a day. Depending on giraffe's size and appetite he/she can eat 40 to 140 pounds of leaves and plants a day.
Giraffes, like camels, can go for a long time without water, but sometimes they do get thirsty. At times like this they look for a water hole, which is like a pond in savanna where all the animals come to drink or bathe. Once they get there giraffes can drink about 12 gallons of water ot once.
It is difficult for giraffes to drink because they are so tall. To reach the water they have to spread their front legs very wide apart, and they look like they are about to fall.
Being herbivores, giraffes don't hunt for other animals, but they do become a prey. Predators which are giraffe's biggest anemies are lions, hyenas, and leopards. Adult gir
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July 17, 2007 12:08 PM
Where do Giraffes Live?
There is only one continent in the world where giraffes live. It is Africa. Giraffes choose to live on the flat, grassy areas with some trees and bushes. In Africa these areas are called savannas. We can also call them grasslands or woodlands.
Africa is very hot and its savannas have tropical or subtropical climate. There is a period of rain in summer and a very dry winter.
Some savannas are located in the deserts. For example there are some of them in theSahara Desert, which covers a large part of North Africa.
Savannas provide everything giraffes need to live. They like hot
weather, trees provide some shade, and their leaves are food for giraffes.There is not much water, especially during dry periods of the year, but giraffes can manage without water for a long time. That is why African savannas are a great habitat for giraffes.
There are many African countries where you can see giraffes. They are most popular in Niger, located mostly on the area of Sahara Dessert in North Africa. There are also many of them in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania on the east of the continent, and South Africa, and Botswana in the very south.
Young giraffes are called calves. At the moment of birth a calf is about 6 feet tall, which means calf is already taller than most of the adult people. It weights 120 - 150 pounds. About 1 hour after its birth calf is able to stand up, and it learns how to walk. Mother giraffe takes good care of her calf during first several months of his life. Calf also plays with other calves in the herd. The bond between mother and the calf remains for about 2 years. Young giraffe becomes an adult when he or she is 3 to 4 years old.
Scanning the distance for predators, the tallest animal in the world, the giraffe, munches on its favorite meal, the thorny leaves of the acacia tree.
Suddenly, a giraffe signals to the rest of the herd that danger is near—a lion. In an instant the small herd of giraffes springs their seemingly gangly bodies into a full 35-mile-an-hour (56-kilometer-an-hour) run.
The lion spots a young giraffe, called a calf. Before the lion can attack the calf, its mother positions herself over the calf to protect it.
The lion continues its stalking, unaware that the adult giraffe’s powerful front legs with sharp hooves could easily put an end to the lion’s life.
The lion lunges forward only to be thwarted by a swift kick of the giraffe’s front legs. This time the lion was lucky and only had the wind knocked out of it.
While most lions would think twice before attacking a fully grown giraffe, the calves are not so lucky. Many calves die from lion attacks during their first year of life. Once a giraffe reaches adulthood its height is often enough to protect it from lions. Giraffes can easily live 25 years.
Adult giraffes, however, must still be careful of lions when they are bending down to drink water or rest. Usually giraffes will drink or rest in shifts so that at least one giraffe is always on the lookout for approaching predators.
The giraffes’ 18-foot (5.4-meter) height and excellent vision gives them a wide view of the grasslands where they live, making it easy for them to spot predators from a distance. Some scientists believe that other animals—such as zebras, antelope, and wildebeests—often congregate near giraffes to take advantage of their ability to see danger from a distance. The giraffe could be considered the early warning system of the African grasslands.
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July 17, 2007 12:24 PM
True or False
Giraffes and Humans both have 7 neck bones?
Giraffes in front of a baobab tree in the Kruger National Park.
South Africa has set aside much of the country for the protection of wildlife. The largest and best known reserve is Kruger. The state-owned-and-operated sanctuary is also one of the most affordable and therefore requires a reservation far ahead of a visit. Accommodations range from camp sites to luxury "private" camps. Visitors usually view the animals from their cars, but they can also sign up for walks in the company of armed rangers.
Many private game reserves, such as Timbavati, share a fenceless boundary with Kruger park, forming a giant contiguous ecosystem. The privately owned sanctuaries usually offer luxurious (and accordingly priced) facilities, some including accommodations in trees, showers in the outdoors, cocktail decks overlooking water holes, and small guided safaris in off-road vehicles.
In KwaZulu-Natal Province visitors may sign up for three-day hikes in Umfolozi Wilderness, a 59,000-acre (24,000-hectare) section of the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park where there is no development whatsoever. Hikers enter the wilderness in the company of rangers and camp in tents. Baggage and food is sent ahead on donkeys.
Early written records described the giraffe as "magnificent in appearance, bizarre in form, unique in gait, colossal in height and inoffensive in character." Ancient cultures in Africa revered the giraffe, as some modern cultures do today, and commonly depicted it in prehistoric rock and cave paintings. Unknown outside of Africa, this animal so excited man's curiosity that it was sometimes sent as a diplomatic gift to other countries; one of the earliest records tells of a giraffe going from "Melinda" (presumably Malindi) in Kenya to China in 1415. The animal was thought to be a cross between a camel and a leopard, a mistake immortalized in the giraffe's scientific name of Giraffa camelopardalis.
The neck is so long the giraffe must spread its front legs apart so its head can reach the ground to drink. It has unusually elastic blood vessels with a series of valves that help offset the sudden buildup of blood (and to prevent fainting) when the head is raised, lowered or swung quickly.
The giraffe's high shoulders and sloping back give the impression that its front legs are much longer than the hind legs, but they are in fact only slightly longer. The giraffe (as well as its short-necked relative the okapi from Central African forests) has a distinctive walking gait, moving both legs on one side forward at the same time. At a gallop, however, the gait changes, and the giraffe simultaneously swings the hind legs ahead of and outside the front legs, reaching speeds of 35 miles an hour. Its heavy head moves forward with each powerful stride, then swings back to stay balanced. Giraffes have "horns" not true horns but knobs covered with skin and hair above the eyes to protect the head from blows.
The reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) of northeastern Kenya has large, chestnut-colored square patches defined by a network of fine white lines. The larger Baringo or Rothschild's giraffe (G.c. rothschildi) of western Kenya and eastern Uganda has chestnut patches separated by broader white lines but no spotting below the knees. This species can have up to five horns instead of the usual two or three. The Masai giraffe (G.c. tippelskirchi) of Tanzania and southern Kenya has irregular star-shaped brown or tan spots.
Giraffes are found in arid and dry-savanna zones south of the Sahara, wherever trees occur.
Although a relatively quiet animal, the giraffe is not mute. Giraffes bellow, grunt, bray in distress, moan and emit short flutelike notes. They have acute senses of hearing and sight, often alerting other animals to nearby predators.
Giraffes use a home range but are not territorial. The males are hierarchical and sometimes spar by standing side by side and lowering and swing their heads at one another. The blows can be so strong that their necks entwine. The practice, called necking, has sometimes mistaken as courtship between a male and female, but since it is performed only by males (of approximately the same size) it is probably a test of strength. Although females have been observed striking with their front feet to keep predators away from their young, male giraffes do not often do so when fighting.
When protected, giraffes can flourish in areas where food is abundant year round. Although they drink water when it's available, they can survive where it is scarce. They occasionally eat grass and fruits of various trees and shrubs, but their principal food source is the acacia tree. The tree's sharp horns do not seem to stop the giraffe, which has a long, muscular tongue specially adapted to select, gather and pluck foliage. The giraffe is a selective feeder and although it feeds 16 to 20 hours a day, it may consume only about 65 pounds of foliage during that time. It can maintain itself on as little as 15 pounds of foliage per day.
Nursery groups of young animals are left alone together during the day while their mothers feed. The 6-foot-tall calf grows rapidly as much as an inch a day. By 2 months the young giraffe is eating leaves and at 6 months is fairly independent of its mother. A young giraffe can even survive early weaning at 2 or 3 months. Although few predators attack adult giraffes, lions, hyenas and leopards take their toll on the young. Scientists report that only a quarter of infants survive their first year of life.
Giraffe tails were highly prized by the ancient Egyptians, and still are in many African cultures. The desire for good-luck bracelets, fly whisks and thread for sewing or stringing beads have led people to kill the giraffe for its tail alone. Giraffes are easily killed and poaching (now more often for their meat and hide) continues today.
Despite its long neck, the giraffe has only seven vertebrae, exactly the same number as man and most other mammals. Even though giraffes are often seen together in groups, they do not form the complex social groups of many plains species. Theirs are loose associations, constantly changing in make-up.