It’s widely known that giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) are the tallest of all land mammals but there is so much more to these fascinating creatures.
For example, giraffes are also incredibly social, are said to only sleep for about 30 minutes a day and enjoy nibbling on the leaves of the acacia tree, in particular… and that’s just the start!
You would think that it would be easy to spot giraffes when on a safari in the Kruger National Park, but as tall as these amazing animals are, they are able to blend in fairly easily with their surroundings.
Having said this, an adult male giraffe can grow to a whopping 5.4 metres while the female grows to around 4.3 metres, making them the tallest mammals on land. Their impressive height can be both an advantage and disadvantage though.
On the plus side, using their long necks (which have the same number of neck bones as humans, by the way), they are able to reach the juicy leaves at the top of trees, with the acacia tree being a favourite of theirs. Their long tongues, which can be up to 53cm long, also help with this. Their height, coupled with their excellent eyesight, helps them to keep a keen eye out for predators as well.
On the negative side, their long necks make it incredibly difficult to drink water. In order to quench their thirst, giraffes have to spread their front legs apart and awkwardly (that’s how it looks anyway) lower their necks in order to drink water. Unfortunately, this leaves them incredibly vulnerable to predators, like lions (Panthera leo), at the same time.
It’s a good thing then that giraffes don’t have to do this very often as they get most of the water that they need from the food that they eat.
It’s recently been said that there are actually many subspecies of giraffe, each one with its own characteristics and reproductive behaviours.
Another fascinating fact about giraffes is its said that each one’s coat pattern is unique! However each subspecies does have its own pattern style, which is also how one would perhaps distinguish the different subspecies.
If you’ve never heard the word ‘necking’ before or are wondering how it applies to giraffes, you’ve clicked on the right article! Believe it or not, it’s the way male giraffes, or bulls, fight each other and fight for dominance. They would do this by swinging their neck around and hitting the opposing giraffe with it. This also occurs often in bachelor herds.
If you came across this on a Kruger safari and weren’t sure what it was, it would almost look like they were playing, but believe us when we say that it’s actually a lot more violent than it looks.
Due to the fact that giraffes very rarely sit down, giraffe young, known as calves, come into this world with a bang… literally! Giraffes give birth standing up so the calf would normally fall about 1.5 metres to the ground as its born.
The gestation period for giraffes is usually between 13 and 15 months and they generally give birth at any point in the year, though it has been said that calves are sometimes born in the drier months in some places.
The great thing about giraffes is that, whether you’re exploring the routes around Skukuza in the south of the Kruger National Park or even further north, you’ll probably come across them anywhere.
Giraffes often move around in groups, known as towers, but can be seen alone as well. However, if you see one, it’s always a good idea to stop and look around the area, as you’ll often spot more of them if you look carefully enough.
A word of caution - should you spot a giraffe, you may just be tempted to sit there and stare at them all day, or perhaps even follow them around. They are incredibly graceful and a joy to watch.
As with all sightings, it’s always best to give them their space, as giraffes will often boldy cross the road to get to the tasty foliage on the other side. Silence is a virtue on a Kruger Park safari and is important so as not to startle the animals - giraffes included.
You’re also almost always guaranteed to see giraffes eating, when you see them on safari. Yes, some believe that can munch up to 45kg of twigs and leaves a day!
Our advice is to just sit back and enjoy the moment when you come across them - it’s an incredibly therapeutic and relaxing way to spend your time and, more often than not, they make for truly fantastic sightings.
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