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GIRAFFES

E B O O K

F O R

F A N S

BY BERENICE LORENZO
& SERGIO GONGORA

Copyright 2016 Datamatic, S.C.

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof


may not be reproduced or used in any manner
whatsoever without the express written permission of
the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in
a book review.

First Edition, 2016

Datamatic, S.C.
Miami, FL.
www.giraffeworlds.com

Text and research: Berenice Lorenzo.


Design: Sergio Gngora.
Editorial: Datamatic, S.C.
Photos: courtesy of Pixabay and the
respective authors.
All images rights are property of their
authors as listed in Pixabay.
Bioexpedition and its logo are
trademarks of Datamatic, S.C.

INTRODUCTION

There are four species of giraffes: Masai


or Kilimanjaro, reticulated or Somali,
Southern Giraffe and Northern giraffe.

Africa would not be the same without its


giraffes; large mammals with and
elongated neck and long legs that top
the list of the highest animal in the world
and give the beauty, tranquility, and
elegance that contrasts with the wild
landscape of their natural environment.
They belong to the Giraffidae family and
the order Artiodactyla, which means that
both legs end in an even number of
fingers.
There are four species: Masai or
Kilimanjaro giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi),
reticulated or Somali giraffe (Giraffa
reticulata) Southern Giraffe (Giraffa

Giraffa) and Northern giraffe (Giraffa


camelopardalis).
There are several theories about the
origin and development of the long neck
of giraffes. While most scientists agreed
on the reaching trees for food
explanation, new theories argue that it
was a reproductive reason as males
usually fight with their necks for the right
to mate a female. What is a fact is that
they do not have more vertebrae in their
necks but only seven, just like humans,
although their dimensions are huge.
Giraffes have been on the African
continent for at least 10,000 years.

There are several


theories about the
origin and
development of the
long neck of giraffes

ANATOMY

The most characteristic feature of giraffes is their


height. On average, a giraffe is between 4.5 and
5 meters high, but the Masai species males can
reach up to 6 meters high; therefore, the Masai
giraffe is the tallest mammal on Earth. The tail of
a giraffe measures between 80 cm to a meter
long, and their weight can range from 550 kg in
females, up to nearly 2,000 kg in largest bulls.
They have a couple of ossified cartilage
protuberances on the head of approximately 13.5
cm long, called ossicones. These structures can
help distinguish a male from a female because
the latter have thinner and hairy ossicones.
Another noteworthy feature of giraffes is their
skin. Each has a unique and unrepeatable
pattern of spots, like our fingerprints. The
functions of these patches of brown tone are
alienating the insects and parasites due to their
particular smell and regulate their body

Their cartilage protuberances are


called ossicones.

Giraffe size comparison

Click on an image to compare. Only works on ibooks version.

Each giraffe has a unique


and unrepeatable pattern
of spots in its skin.

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temperature to withstand the intense heat


of their habitat.
As mentioned, their neck has seven
vertebrae, the same number that we have.
But the difference is that each of these
bone parts in giraffes, measures up to 28
cm long, resulting in a neck of almost two
meters long.

Giraffe tongue is black and can measure


up to 50 cm.

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HABITAT

Savannas, grasslands and open


forest are their main habitat.

Savannas, grasslands and open forests of


Africa, are home to all species and subspecies
of giraffes. Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Uganda
and South Africa are among the countries they
inhabit, either in the wild or natural reserves;
such as the Etosha National Park in Namibia,
Samburu Nature Reserve in Kenya or Kruger
National Park in South Africa.

Years ago, there were large populations of


giraffes in Sudan, but anthropogenic problems
decreased their population. Some think that
there are less than 250 individuals of the Nubian
giraffe, and approximately 700 Rothschilds
giraffes in the wild, both subspecies of the
Northern giraffe which have small populations to
survive many years.
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BEHAVIOR

Giraffes are social animals that organize in unstable herds of 10


to 20 individuals. This "instability" means that each one is free to
leave the group whenever they want, because their links are not
as strong as in other animals, except that of a mother with her
offspring.
Within the herd, each member knows its role, as all contribute
taking care from predators while resting or taking turns while
drinking water. Their warnings also alert other animals that are
small or against the wind about the proximity of danger. If a group
of giraffes flees, everyone else should. Zebras and ostriches are
usual followers of giraffe warnings.
A common myth was thinking that giraffes were mute, but it's
totally false. These animals are capable of producing
vocalizations similar to a human cough, and their offspring emit
more acute sounds when looking for attention. If we do not hear
giraffes, probably is because they also communicate with
infrasounds, sound waves of very low frequency that humans
cannot detect.

Giraffes are social animals.

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FEEDING

Giraffes have the advantage of reaching


higher leaves and branches to avoid any
confrontation with other herbivores. Their
favorite food is the trees and thorny bushes
of Acacia, but it is complemented with
other vegetation. Those thorns are not a
problem for them, because their tongue
and thick saliva protect them from injuries,
both in the mouth and internal organs.
They sometimes also chew small dry
bones for its high calcium content that
strengthen their ossicones.
They are slow digestion ruminants that
spend much time eating, ingesting 34 to 75
kg of vegetation every day and getting the
water from the leaves they consume,
although, in times of drought, they
additionally drink about 38 liters of water
every three days.
In captivity, their feeding usually includes
carrots, apples, seeds and leaves served
at their height.

The Acacia tree is one of their


favorites.

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REPRODUCTION

Males are not territorial, but during the


breeding season, they perform the "necking"
a neck struggle where the strongest bull will
be entitled to mate. After this ritual of force,
none of the competitors show signs of
violence, and they can coexist in the same
space without aggression.
The male smells the urine of the female to
know their reproductive status and starts
making physical contacts to attract it. After
the intercourse, the process of gestation
lasts between 425 and 465 days, which is
equivalent to approximately one year and
three months.
The calf birth is not very gentle; it falls from a
height of two meters to the ground. In just
twenty minutes, it can coordinate their body
to stand up and start drinking the milk that
the mother provides. The giraffe calf is not
small; it reaches up to two meters high and
weighs up to 100 kg.

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The life expectancy of


giraffes in the wild is 15 to
25 years. Females live
25% more time than
males.

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THREATS

The most vulnerable are the young as they do not possess the size
and strength that adults have to defend themselves. A mother or a
bull that feels threatened can kill a predator with one kick.
Among the common natural predators are lions, hyenas, wild dogs
and leopards. Sometimes crocodiles attack them while they incline
to drink water. Taking down a giraffe is not easy, so it requires
several members well organized to achieve it. Usually, they seek to
attack the neck of the giraffe and mount on its back to scratch it and

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bite it, always avoiding to get hit by the powerful kick of their back
legs.
But not only large predators are deadly to them; parasites and
diseases are also a threat to the life of giraffes. The tsetse fly carries
several diseases that can be fatal and larvae of other types of flies
and insects, as well as 15 types of ticks, tapeworms, and
whipworms, invade their tissues and internal organs, making them
unfit to have a healthy life.

Their natural predators


are lions, hyenas, wild
dogs, leopards and
crocodiles.

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The Rothschild and the Nubian


giraffes are two of the most endangered subspecies.

Moreover, man is causing their most severe


problems because poaching and habitat
reduction caused that some subspecies
became endangered, as their population
reduction makes them tough to survive because
of the lack of genetic diversity. Some indigenous
population eat giraffe meat and get bracelets,

fly swatters and cords from their tail and skin.


Similarly, in some parts of the continent, people
can pay to get the permission to shoot a giraffe,
which makes difficult the work of preservation.

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