Where to see them:
Giraffe are the tallest land mammals in the world.
A giraffe’s neck can be over six feet long and has seven, elongated (up to 10-inch) vertebrae – the same number as a human’s.
The tongue is prehensile, dark blue in color and up to 18 inches long.
Watch a giraffe keeper talk
Rothschild giraffe can reach heights of up to 20 feet. Adult males average 17 feet, and adult females average 15 feet. Average adult weights range from 1,500 to 2,500 pounds.
Reticulated giraffe can reach heights of up to 18 feet. Adult males can average 17, feet and adult females average 15.5 feet. Average adult weights range from 2,500 to 4,500 pounds.
- Rothschild giraffe are found specifically in Uganda, Sudan and Kenya.
- Reticulated giraffe are found in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Giraffe live in loose herds that can be composed of males and females of all ages. Males are called bulls, females are called cows, and all infants are called calves. Giraffe herds do not necessarily spend much time in close proximity, but will sometimes feed or drink together. However, the bulls will test each other’s strength by “necking.” Bulls will slam their necks together, push, shove, and even wrap their necks around each other to determine dominance for mating or breeding rights with females.
Giraffe are very selective browsers that prefer the new growth foliage of the acacia tree. Giraffe will feed on over 100 different species of plants, including mimosa and apricot, and prefer vegetation found at heights of 6 feet to 17 feet off the ground. Bulls naturally forage at higher levels than do cows to reduce food competition between the sexes.
A six-foot fall is a newborn giraffe’s first experience in life. Giraffe cows give birth standing up to a single calf following a 16-month pregnancy. Newborn calves weigh 150 to 200 pounds and are about 6 feet tall. Calves can walk within an hour of birth and will nurse for nine to 11 months. Females in a herd will often bring four to five calves together in a type of giraffe day care called a crèche. The females will rotate watching the crèche, which allows the moms more feeding time. Both males and females reach maturity at 3 to 5 years old, but sometimes height (being too short) or the presence of older bulls will prohibit males from breeding until they are closer to 7. Mating occurs year-round, peaking during the rainy season. The average giraffe lifespan is 20 years.
Some of My Neighbors (IN THE WILD)
Often other animals, such as wildebeest and ostrich, will herd with giraffe because of their ability to detect danger early. This early detection allows them to escape before danger arrives. Zebra, gazelle, elephants, warthogs, lions, leopards, cheetah, wild dogs and other woodland species can also be found within the same habitat as giraffe.
Population Status & Threats
Giraffe populations are in rapid decline. Major threats include habitat loss, poaching and population fragmentation. Several populations of giraffe decreased by 40 percent in their historical home ranges from 2007 - 2009. Most stable giraffe populations are now restricted to African national parks and preserves. These serve to protect the animal, but they also cause genetic isolation from other giraffe populations.
Zoo Atlanta Conservation Efforts
Zoo Atlanta participates in the AZA Giraffe Population Management Plan, ensuring a healthy and genetically diverse population at accredited zoos. Several other Zoo Atlanta-supported programs (e.g., Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, elephant Conservation Endowment Fund awards, and rhino Conservation Endowment Fund awards) provide umbrella protection for giraffe in the form of education, anti-poaching patrol and habitat conservation.