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Animal Data > Giraffe

(Giraffe camelopardalis )

Status Distribution Sexually Mature
Lower Risk Africa, south of the Sahara 4 years
Number of Young Gestation Life Span
1 450 days 20 years

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There are several different races of giraffe, distinguished by colouration and pattern. Giraffes normally live in small herds of 10 - 15 individuals, led by an adult male (bull). The mother gives birth while standing. At birth the single youngster may weigh 50 - 70 kg and reach 1.7 - 2m in height. It begins to eat solids after approximately 1 month and is fully weaned within a year.

Because of their great height, giraffes, which are ruminants (they chew the cud), are able to browse the uppermost branches of trees. Thus they face little competition from other herbivores. Their great height also gives them the advantage of seeing predators from a distance. They have few enemies beside humans. The time when they are most susceptible to attack from a lion is when they have their head lowered for drinking. When frightened they can reach speeds of 47 km/h (nearly 30 mph).

A bull giraffe may reach nearly 6m in height (over 18 ft). However, like most mammals (including humans) they have only 7 neck vertebrae, the bones being greatly elongated. giraffes have specially developed physiological adaptations to allow an even flow of blood to the brain when the neck is suddenly lowered or raised.

Main Features

Tallest land animal. Very long neck and legs.

In Captivity

Giraffes breed reasonably well in captivity, and Marwell has been particularly successful. Although the mother usually cares for her baby, it is not uncommon to have to hand-rear a young giraffe that has been rejected. Such a 'baby' can drink up to 10 litres of full cream milk each day.

The adults are fed a mixture of oats, flaked maize, bran, custom-mixed diet, lucerne hay and, when the season allows, leafy branches.

When allowed out in the paddock in the summer they may graze - a habit uncharacteristic of the species - having denuded all the trees within their reach.

©2009 Marwell Wildlife