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Guide to the mammal species of Southern Africa

Giraffe - Giraffa camelopardalis
Travel Writer: EcoTravel Africa  

Nature's skyscraper, the Giraffe is the world's tallest animal. Its carotid artery and jugular vein, running down the long neck from head to heart, are equipped with special valves to keep the blood from alternately flooding and evacuating the brain as the head is raised, or lowered to drink water.

Photographer: EcoTravel Africa 

The giraffe looks rather as it it were designed by a committee: the scientiific name 'camelopardalis' indicates a resemblance to both camel (size) and leopard (spots). The body is covered in large, irregularly shaped patches of colour divided from one another by a network of light-coloured, off-white or yellowish-white bands, which tend to darken with age.

Giraffe occur in a wide range of dry savanna associations ranging from scrub to woodland, providing that these include the particular range of food plants necessary to cover their seasonal requirements. They are predominantly diurnal browsers, and eat a wide range of food plants, but they do graze occasionally on fresh, sprouting grasses.

The giraffe's defensive weapon against its main enemy, the lion, is a kick that packs a powerful, hoofed punch. Giraffe have an unusual, ungainly gait: the two legs on each side swing almost in unison. At full gallop, with the tail twisted over the hindquarters and the neck swinging to and fro in rhythm with the legs, it can achieve a speed of 56 km/h.

A sleepy giraffe may take a nap standing up, with its head supported in the fork of a tree. Even if it lies down it will usually keep its neck upright. If a whole troop of giraffes are resting, they orientate themselves in different directions so as to be prepared for danger from any direction.

Social bonds are not strongly developed, and herd structure seems to be loose, made up mainly of females and young, although mixed herds and bachelor herds are also found. There is apparently no consistency in the ratio of males to females in a herd, and herds rarely consist of the same individuals for more than a few days.

They do not defend a territory, and have fairly large home ranges. A newborn giraffe can weigh in at some 100 kg. The calves lie hidden in a resting area, and when slightly older often form small nursery herds guarded by one or two females. Young calves are playful, and run together kicking up their legs. Mortality amongst giraffe calves is high, and may reach 70 % in some areas.

More facts about Giraffes

Kruger National Park (South Africa)
Pilanesberg National Park (South Africa)
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park
Marakele National Park
Vaalbos National Park
Tembe Elephant Park


For more information go to: Giraffe Central

Mammals of Southern Africa    >> Printable List <<
Wildlife - Fauna & Flora of Southern Africa

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Learn more about the Giraffe - Giraffa camelopardalis with Wildlife Campus. Course content includes in-depth information about Giraffe habitat, spoor, droppings, ecology...

Wildlife Campus offers many courses including: Field Guide Courses (FGASA); Game Ranging; Wildlife Management; Photography; Astronomy...

Southern Africa has many top Game / Nature Reserves, and is home to many of the mammals of southern Africa. Numerous wildlife safari and tour companies operate guided tours to Southern Africa. Popular adventure travel activities in Southern Africa include: horse riding safaris, elephant back safaris, mountain biking, birding, wilderness walking trails, science safaris and volunteering especially for GAP year students.
Southern Africa Wildlife - Fauna & Flora
Amphibians Ecology
Birds Trees
Fishes Shrubs
Mammals Grasses
Reptiles : Snakes Herbaceous Plants
Invertebrates Fungi : Mushrooms
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