Male and female giraffe have the same coat coloration, males tend to be taller and heavier (4 to 5.5m tall and weighing 800-1930kg) than females (4 to 4.5m tall and weighing 550-1200kg).
Different subspecies of giraffe have been described in part by the different shape and color of coat patterns. Two distinct giraffe subspecies are the Reticulated giraffe, with a lattice work of thin lines separated by a uniform darker coat color, and the Masai giraffe with irregular jiggered edged coat patches.
Habitat and Distribution
The giraffe lives in open woodlands and grasslands of Africa known as the savannah.
Giraffe formerly occurred in arid and dry-savanna zones of sub-Saharan Africa, wherever trees occur. Today the giraffes range has contracted markedly with the expansion of human populations, especially in West Africa.
Giraffe are found in these African countries Botswana; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Ethiopia; Kenya; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe.
While southern populations are increasing in abundance, northern populations have been decreasing due to habitat degradation and poaching (for giraffe’s pelt, meat and tail).
Most Giraffe subspecies have the conservation status of Least concern, however the Rothschilds’ and Nigerien giraffe are considered to be endangered.
In Niger, conservation projects have facilitated the Niger Giraffe’s population recovery in an area outside any formal protected park or reserve. However, poaching and habitat loss and degradation as a result of increased aridity, and expansion of human activities remain threats.
Rothschild’s Giraffe is one of the most threatened giraffe subspecies remaining. Exact numbers estimated at approximately 240 individuals. Determining exact population numbers and conservation status through surveys is a Wildlife Conservation Society priority.
Although giraffe are managed at species level, several Zoo Association Zoos hold pure Rothschild’s Giraffe.
Giraffe are browsers, eating the leaves from trees, primarily acacia species. An adult giraffe can eat 35kg of leaves each day, along with the bark.
In zoos giraffe are fed browse, pelleted rations and Lucerne hay.
Breeding and Lifecycle
Male giraffe are sexually mature from two years of age, but generally the larger, older bulls do the breeding. Female giraffe generally give birth for the first time in their fourth year after a gestation of 15 months. Giraffe breed all year round and can continue breeding into their mid 20s. Although giraffe in captivity have lived to their mid thirties, a giraffe over twenty years is considered to be old.
Giraffe are the tallest animals in the world; they are nearly 2 meters in height when born, growing rapidly in their first year nearly doubling their height. Adult males can reach a height of more than 5 meters when fully grown.
Giraffe have excellent eyesight being able to can see a human that is standing 2km away and a good sense of hearing also.
The neck of a giraffe contains seven vertebrae like most mammals, though they are greatly elongated.
The Zoo and Aquarium Association acknowledges Zoos Victoria for providing the factsheet information above.