Habitat & Range
Native to Africa, the giraffe’s range extends from Chad to South Africa and from Niger to Somalia. They typically inhabit savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands. During the rainy season, food is more abundant and giraffes are more spread out within their range.
A fully-grown giraffe stands between 16 and 20 feet tall and weighs about 2,500 pounds. Aside from its long neck and legs, notable characteristics include its keen senses of sight, smell and hearing. Its prehensile tongue is about 20 inches long and is used for grasping foliage, grooming and cleaning its nose. The coat is covered in dark patches that range from orange to dark brown, separated by light, cream areas. The horn-like structures atop its head are called ossicones that are used in thermoregulation and male-to-male combat.
A giraffe consumes about 75 pounds of foliage everyday, mostly consisting of twigs, shrubs, grass and fruit. A giraffe requires less food than other herbivores because the foliage it eats has more concentrated nutrients and its digestive system is more efficient.
Reproduction & Lifespan
Male giraffes prefer to mate with young adult females over juveniles and older adults. Although males and females both reach sexual maturity at 4 years, males do not have the opportunity to mate until 7 years old. Once he detects an estrous female, the male will attempt to court her. During this time, he will keep other males at bay. The gestation period is 400 to 460 days and results in a single calf.
Giraffes have a longer lifespan than most other ruminants, likely due to their large size and keen senses. Calves are much more vulnerable to predators than adults. Those that reach adulthood have a lifespan of up to 25 years.
Fantastic Fact An Acquired Taste
During mating season, male giraffes will assess a female’s fertility by tasting her urine to detect estrus.
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