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bovid family
bovid family
other herbivores
carnivores
primates

wildlife (back to intro)

in this section
Blue Duiker
Dik-Dik
Gazelle tribe
Thomson's gazelle
Grant's gazelle
Gerenuk
Kob antelope
Waterbuck
Sable antelope
Oryx or Gemsbok
Hartebeest
Topi or Tsessebe
Common Wildebeest
Impala
Bushbuck
Sitatunga
Greater Kudu
Bongo
Common eland
African or Cape buffalo
Giraffe
Giraffe: Giraffa camelopardalis

The giraffe is the biggest ruminant and the tallest mammal.

Characteristics

Weight and Height
males: wt 2420-4250 lb (110-1932 kg), shoulder ht 9-11 ft (2.7-3.3 m)
    top of horns: up to 18ft (5.5 m)
females: wt 1540-2600 lb (700-1182 kg), ht 24 in shorter (5.4 cm)

Horns
Solid bone covered by skin; in the female thin and tufted on top, in the male thick and bald on top, up to 5 in (13.5 cm) long.

Color
brown to chestnut with blotches of lighter hair; each giraffe has a unique pattern.


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General Locations
The giraffe was formerly found in arid and dry-savanna zones south of the Sahara, typically in places with an abundance of trees. However, most of the giraffes in West Africa and the southern Kalahari region were eliminated, leaving only giraffes in and around most national parks and reserves.

Habitat
Giraffes are built in such a way that they can easily reach branches and leaves reaching over 6 feet high. With an 18-inch (45-cm) tongue and an axis joint that allows the giraffe to extend its head further than normal, the giraffe can reach heights that most animals cannot.

Giraffes feed primarily on broad-leafed foliage in the rainy season and evergreens in the dry. The giraffe has the ability to gather up to 75 lb (34 kg) of food each day. The giraffe must drink every two or three days when water is available, but can go without water as long as it can collect water from food.


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Activity
Giraffes are primarily diurnal, but are also considered nocturnal. Females spend over 50% of a 24-hour day looking for food while males spend around 43%. Most giraffes spend the night sleeping or eating food which is low to the ground -- especially just after dusk and just before dawn. Males spend 22% of the day traveling while females only spend 13% -- the extra time for males is spent looking for females in heat.

Social Systems
Giraffes live in loose, open herds because they are sociable and non-territorial. Herds are often composed of strictly males, strictly females, and strictly young or a mixture of both sexes and all ages. The herds do not have leaders or even a planned schedule for moving about and/or looking for food.

Due to their size, it is difficult for giraffes to gather closely together for protection. Much time is spent alone going from tree to tree in search of food, so giraffes are fairly independent. A herd may be as far as 1/2 mi (0.8 km) apart during the day before regrouping for the night. Typical home ranges for both males and females are about 63 sq mi (163 sq km). However, home ranges can vary in size from 2 to 252 sq mi (5-654 sq km)


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Reproduction
The gestation period for giraffes is 14 to 14.5 months. There are typically 16-month intervals between calves since this is such a long gestation period. Breeding occurs year-round with a conception peak during the rainy season.

Predators
In general, the giraffe is too large to fall prey to predators. However, 50 to 75% of calves are vulnerable to the lion and the spotted hyena.



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