The tallest land mammal, the Giraffe was recently put on the endangered species list and is now vulnerable. One of the most loved and recognized animals on Earth is sliding towards extinction. These tall animals have evolved some of the most unique and specialized physiology to survive and thrive in Africa.
Giraffes are known for their height. Males can stand upwards of 18 feet (5.5 m) and females stand upwards of 14 feet (4.3 m). Males can weigh up to 3000 lb. (1360 kg) and females weigh up to 1500 lb. (680 kg). While currently under debate, there are generally 9 subspecies of Giraffe and they differ in their coat colors and patterns. Each individual Giraffe’s coat pattern is like a fingerprint and unique to them. Giraffe legs are about 6 feet (1.8 m) long. Their feet are about the size of a dinner plate, with diameter of 30 cm.
Giraffe’s closest relative is the Okapi, and together are the only remaining species of Giraffidae. Giraffe’s have evolved their long necks and it is generally thought their necks got longer to they would have a competitive advantage against other browsers. As their necks got longer they could reach the leaves and stems from trees and other plants that other animals could not reach.
The scientific name is Giraffa camelopardalis and was named because they were called ‘camel leopards.’ Meaning they looked like camels and had the spotted patterns like leopards.
Other facts include:
- Herbivores and a browser
- Prefer acacia trees and their sticky saliva coats any thorns from these trees so they can swallow them
- Can eat up to 75 lb. (34 kg) per day
- Giraffes have 7 vertebrae like humans, but each one is up to 10 inches long
- Tongues are black, dark purple to prevent sunburn and can be as long as 18 inches (46 cm)
- Can run up to 35 mph (36 kph) and can sustain this speed for quite a distance
- Giraffes can be preyed upon by lions, humans, and crocodiles
- Giraffes have an ability to kick in almost any direction that can crush the skull of a lion
- Live up to 15-25 years in the wild; can live up to 40 under human care
In 2016, Giraffes were listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. Giraffe populations have been in steep decline and their habitat is fragmented. Experts are calling this a ‘silent extinction,’ due to the lack of coverage that other species are receiving. The population is estimated to be less than 100,000.
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