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Mammals

Giraffe

giraffe

Giraffa camelopardalis

Distribution:

Africa, south of the Sahara Desert

Habitat:

Dry savannah and open woodland

Diet:

Leaves and shoots of trees and shrubs

Gestation:

15 months, usually one offspring born

Longevity:

25 years

Predators:

Humans, lions and hyenas

Conservation status:

Least concern

General:

Giraffes are the tallest animals in the world, superbly adapted to feeding on the leaves at the tops of trees. Males can reach heights of 5.5 metres and females 4.8 metres. The giraffes' neck is long and flexible but only contains 7 neck bones, just like humans. Each giraffe has its own individual pattern, like a human fingerprint.


Although they generally move at a very relaxed pace, they may attain a speed of 56km over short distances. Their long powerful legs are their best defence and capable of delivering a fatal kick to a predator.


At 50cm long, their tongues are both flexible and prehensile (capable of grasping) and make them very effective feeders on their favourite vegetation.


As giraffes are so tall they find it difficult to get up quickly once lying down, and are vulnerable to predators when sitting. They seldom lie down, sleep less than 2 hours a day, and usually sleep standing up.


A giraffe is sexually mature at 3-4 years of age. After a gestation of 15 months, the cow delivers a single calf while standing. At birth, the calf is already about 6ft tall, taller than the average human being!


The major threats to giraffes are habitat loss and poaching. They are also used as a source of meat and are killed for their tail hair, which is often made into bracelets.

At Hamilton Zoo:

We have a batchelor group of six giraffe at Hamilton Zoo.. that means they're all boys. You'll find them in the savannah during the day unless the weather is bad. If it is, you can still see them in their night dens over in the wetlands. 


Names and birthdates:
Ndoki - 22 May 1998
Makuku - 2 November 1999
Masamba - 27 November 2002
Ndale - 4 August 2004
Dume - 4 January 2006


Makulu is a bit special, he is a baringo giraffe (also known as Rothchild's giraffe). These subspecies of giraffe is one of the most endangered and it is estimated that fewer than 700 individuals remain in the wild.