Common name: giraffe
HABITAT AND GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION
Giraffe, scientific name Giraffa camelopardalis of the family Giraffidae, is the tallest land animal. It lives throughout Africa, in the areas south of the Sahara, however, avoiding areas of true desert, swampy areas and rainforests.
One of its peculiarities that makes it survive in very different environments is that it is an animal that can stay for long periods without drinking, therefore it can live hundreds of kilometers away from water without this causing any damage. In any case, its ideal habitat is coniferous woods or the savannah. It does not compete with other animals for food as it feeds mainly on tree leaves.
The first thing that everyone thinks of when thinking about the giraffe is certainly its height, which reaches 5.7 m in the adult male.
It has a spotted coat and the type also varies according to the habitat in which it lives as its function is that of camouflage. Eight subspecies have been classified that differ from each other for the different maculation of the mantle (studies on the different subspecies are ongoing and the opinions are quite discordant among the different scholars).
They have a tail that is up to one meter long and ends in a black tuft that is used to repel insects.
The most striking part is certainly the neck, on average 2.5 m long, equipped with 7 vertebrae, as in most mammals, only in this animal they are particularly elongated and wide. In view of the fact that the giraffe's heart has to work a lot to get the blood to the head, the arteries in the neck are equipped with special valves that reduce the pressure when it lowers the head to avoid damage to the brain.
The legs of the giraffe are up to 2m long and are muscular and powerful. Each has a split (split) hoof formed by the third and fourth toes while the other three toes are much smaller. When it runs it appears clumsy and awkward due to the neck that goes back and forth but it is an animal not to be underestimated in fact it can reach speeds of 55-60 km / h and maintain this speed for considerable distances.
The head is provided with horns that end with a rounded tip which are nothing more than the extension of the skull. Generally in females the horns are thin while in males they are more robust.
A peculiarity is the blue tongue up to 45 cm long which is used together with the upper lip to tear the vegetation it eats.
CHARACTER, BEHAVIOR AND SOCIAL LIFE
The giraffe is an animal that typically lives in small groups of 10-20 individuals although this does not mean that the group is the basis of its social form. In fact it is a very individual animal and it gathers together with other individuals only to have a better chance of escaping predators. Switch from one group to another with ease. There are no rules for how a group should be formed (all female, all male, male and female, etc.): all combinations are fine. The only real bond that exists between giraffes is that of the mother with her young.
Generally he does not face fights, but given his height he can usually see any dangers from afar and prefers to escape.
They feed in the morning and in the evening and at night they sleep standing up to better escape predators. The resting position means that the head is placed between the hind legs by making a large arch around the neck. They rarely lie down. During their rest they keep their eyes half closed and their ears always attentive.
Giraffes are thought to be dumb animals as they are not often heard making sounds. In reality they communicate with each other through grunts, whistles, shouts, hisses, each sound with a precise meaning: when there is a danger it grunts or snorts to warn the others of the danger; a mother whistles to call the baby or lowers when they do not see him. Babies emit bleating or meowing sounds while males emit a cough-like sound when courting a female in heat.
An aspect not to be underestimated in communication is that giraffes communicate also thanks to their height, in fact the high view allows the different specimens to always be in contact with each other thanks to their acute eyesight.
The giraffe feeds on leaves, flowers, pods and fruit of a large number of plant species: Acacia senegal, Mimosa pudica, Combretum micranthum, Prunus armeniaca even if their main food is the Acacia.
It is the animal par excellence that, given its height, the most comfortable food for it to eat is found in trees. The long legs prevent it from grazing and drinking is a big problem in fact to do so it must spread the front legs and lower the head to the ground (see video below).
During the day the giraffe feeds while at night it ruminates, i.e. regurgitates the ingested food to chew it and then swallow it again. It is in fact a ruminant.
It has been observed that the male usually prefers to stretch out to graze on the treetops while the female prefers to feed in the lower branches (see video on the side).
They can eat up to 65 kg of vegetables a day even if in poor areas, they can survive even on 7 kg of food a day.
REPRODUCTION AND GROWTH OF THE SMALL
Generally the mating takes place during the rainy period so that the subsequent births take place in the dry months (May - August).
Fights between giraffe males for the attention of a female in heat are not uncommon. During the fight, the two giraffes walk attached to each other and give each other powerful heads with their horns, hitting the opponent in the hips or neck. If a blow is particularly strong it can cause serious damage to the opponent (see video on the side).After mating the male leaves and the female usually joins a group and will remain there for the duration of the pregnancy.
Lagiraffa has a gestation that lasts about 450 days (15 months) and after this period a small 2 m tall and weighing 50-55 kg is born (twin births are rare). The female at the time of giving birth detaches from the group, choose a quiet and safe place and until the baby has reached two weeks of life he will not rejoin the group. Usually she gives birth standing up while walking and the baby's life begins with a powerful fall from a height of 2 meters. After about 15-20 minutes the baby is able to get up and take the first uncertain steps and starts sucking the milk from the mother.
When the mother with the little one reunites with the group, the mother can start moving and moving again as all the little ones are entrusted to a kind of nursery that allows mothers to be able to go away to go in search of food and to drink. In fact, in this nursery the different mothers take turns in the care and custody of the little ones.
Weaning takes place on average around 12-16 months and young females generally remain within the mother's herd while males tend to be solitary until they find their herd.
Males reach sexual maturity at 3 - 4 years but only one year later they are sexually mature even if in fact they begin to reproduce not before reaching seven years of age. Young giraffes reach sexual maturity at the age of 3-4.
Lions, leopards and hyenas are the main predators of the giraffe. Crocodiles have also been observed to become treacherous when giraffes approach the banks to drink. In any case, predators can only get the better of sick, old or young animals as an adult and healthy individual can keep up with his predators by delivering powerful kicks that can break through a skull without any problem.
STATE OF THE POPULATION
There Giraffa camelopardalis is classified in the IUNC Red list among animals at low risk of extinction LEAST CONCERN (LC): about 100,000 specimens have been estimated, although recent surveys indicate a certain decline.
Populations in South Africa are generally more abundant while those in the North are slowly decreasing due to habitat degradation and poaching.
SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND ECOSYSTEM IMPORTANCE
A peculiarity of these mammals is that they are a real nest of ticks that are removed from them by small birds (Buphagus africanus) that rest on their skin and dine with great taste thus freeing the skin from these annoying parasites (see video below): there is therefore a mutual advantage between the giraffe and the Buphagus.
Giraffes are a great attraction for zoos and wildlife parks.
At one time they were killed for their flesh and from their skin they made bridles, whips, straps and even musical instruments.
The term giraffe comes from the Arabic and probably from the word xirapha which means "one who walks very fast".