The African giraffe, also known as the Giraffa camelopardalis, is a majestic and unique animal that can be found throughout the grasslands and savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. The southern giraffe (Giraffa giraffa), also known as two-horned or Cape giraffe, is a species of giraffe native to Southern Africa. With its long legs, neck, and distinctive spots, the giraffe is easily recognizable and has become a symbol of the African wilderness.
Standing at an average height of 4.2 – 4.8 metres, these gentle giants are the tallest mammal in the world, and are a sight to behold. They are also known for their long necks, which can be up to 1.8 metres in length and are made up of seven vertebrae that are elongated to allow for greater reach when browsing for food.
The African giraffe is a herbivore and feeds mainly on leaves, fruits, and flowers from trees and bushes. They use their long necks to reach foliage that is out of reach for other animals, and their prehensile tongues, which can be up to 45 cm long, to grasp leaves and other vegetation. They can consume up to 34 kilograms of vegetation per day.
They also have a very unique and complex digestive system that allows them to digest tough plant material, and they can survive on very little water, only drinking every few days. Because of the challenges posed by needing to bend over 3 metres or more to reach the water, giraffes can actually last up to 21 days (3 weeks) without a drink. When they do drink they’ve been known to down 54 litres in one sitting!
Giraffes are social animals and typically live in groups called “towers.” These groups can range in size from a few individuals to several hundred and are composed of both males and females. Giraffes are non-territorial and do not have a hierarchy within their groups, instead, they can move freely within their groups.
Giraffes are also known for their unique pattern of spots, which are similar to fingerprints in humans, and no two giraffes have the same pattern. These spots are used for camouflage and also for social identification. The giraffes can recognize individual giraffes by the pattern of their spots.
Giraffes are also known for their unique method of running, called “galloping.” They use their long legs to take strides of up to 4.8 metres in length, and they can reach speeds of up to 56 kilometres per hour.
African giraffes are an important part of the ecosystem in which they live. They help to spread the seeds of the plants they eat, and also act as pollinators for certain species of trees and flowers. They also serve as prey for large predators such as lions and crocodiles, helping to keep their populations in check.
The African giraffe population has seen a significant decline over the past century due to habitat loss and poaching. In the 1960’s, there were approximately 155,000 giraffes in the wild, but today that number has dropped to less than 100,000. In some areas, giraffe populations have declined by up to 80%. Habitat loss is a major threat to giraffe populations, as their natural habitats are being destroyed for agriculture and development. Poaching is also a significant issue, as giraffes are hunted for their meat, hides, and tails, which are used for traditional medicine and as good luck charms.
Conservation efforts are being made to protect giraffes and their habitats. These efforts include protecting and restoring giraffe habitats, anti-poaching measures, and captive breeding programs. Additionally, many organizations are working to raise awareness about the plight of the giraffe and the importance of conservation. The African giraffe is a magnificent and unique animal that is an important part of the African ecosystem. It’s critical to take action to protect giraffes and their habitats, so that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty and wonder of these majestic animals.
When staying at Gweda Lodge or while out on safari at Mabalingwe Game Reserve you are bound to drive past towers of giraffes using their blueish-purple tongues to pick the best leaves from the tops of the trees and you might even be able to observe their very awkward efforts to drink water if you pass them at a watering hole.