Family Giraffidae, Giraffa camelopardus
Southern giraffe are independent of water but will drink when it is available. They are most active early morning and late afternoon.
The adults are preyed upon by lion and despite being a protected species in Botswana they are regularly poached by meat poachers. The young are susceptible to predation by leopard, wild dog and hyaena.
Giraffe are gregarious but have loose herds that lack the tight social bonds of other herd animals. They are home-range animals and do not defend territories. Mating usually takes place before the first rains. A Single calf is born after a 14 month gestation period, the birth drop is about 2 meters. The calf does not move with the mother for the first 3 weeks and is left hidden. Usually after every feed the young giraffe is moved so that the scent of lactation does not linger and attract predators. The bond with the cow breaks down after about 2 years but the calves will remain in the natal group for several years before dispersing. Males are easier to age than females becoming darker with age and developing lumps on the head due to calcium deposits. Giraffe will live to about 28 years in the wild.
Vocalizations- giraffe rarely snort
The giraffe has a prehensile tongue that is over 40cm long. The lips are also prehensile and the lips, the tongue and inner mouth are protected from thorns the thorns they eat by specialized horny papillae cells lining the surface. There are no teeth in the upper jaw.
The “horns” on top of the head are referred to as ossicones as they are neither antlers nor horns.
Because of the height of a giraffe a huge amount of blood pressure is required (double that of a human) to circulate blood around the body. The heart of a giraffe can weigh 11kgs which is the body weight of a fully grown steenbuck. The resting heartbeat is 140-150 beats per minute.
Because of the gravity pushing blood to the head when a giraffe lowers its neck to drink, there are several valves in the jugular vein that prevent blood rushing to the brain. There is also a rete mirabilis to assist with slowing the blood flow in both directions down.
The calcium deposits that build up on the head of bull giraffe is possibly to increase the weight of the head. Giraffe fight by “necking” where they stand side-by-side and in more serious fights they slam their heads into the flank of the opposing male. A heavier head makes a much bigger impact. Giraffe commonly eat bones in order to gain more calcium and this is called osteophagy.