The world’s tallest mammal is
struggling to find space to live

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Giraffe

Conservation Status:

Vulnerable

  • Estimated population of 97,500 individuals
  • Can gallop at 32-60 km/h
  • Native to more than 15 African countries

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Giraffa camelopardalis

Weight

Males: 1,930 kilograms (4,254 pounds) Females: 1,180 kilograms (2,601 pounds)

Size

5.7 meters tall from the ground to their horns (18.7 feet)

Life span

Average 10 to 15 years in the wild; recorded a maximum of 30 years

Habitat

Dense forest to open plains

Diet

Herbivorous

Gestation

Between 13 and 15 months

Predators

Humans, lions, leopards, hyenas, crocodiles

Habitat

Where do giraffes live?

They have adapted to a variety of habitats and can be found in desert landscapes to woodland and savanna environments south of the Sahara, wherever trees occur.

Tags: Giraffe, Botswana, Cameroon, DRC, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kazungula, Maasai Steppe, Regional Parc W, Samburu, East Africa, Southern Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What are giraffes?

They are the world’s tallest mammals. They are uniquely adapted to reach vegetation inaccessible to other herbivores. Unusually elastic blood vessels and uniquely adapted valves help offset the sudden buildup of blood (to prevent fainting) when giraffes’ heads are raised, lowered, or swung quickly. Their "horns" are actually knobs covered with skin and hair above the eyes that protect the head from injury. Their necks contain the same amount of vertebrae as we do (seven) except their bones are extremely elongated making their neck a long length of 2.4 meters.

Behavior & Diet

Giraffes are extremely picky eaters.

They feed 16 to 20 hours a day, but may only consume about 30 kilograms (about 30 pounds) of foliage during that time. These two ton mammals can survive on as little as seven kilograms (15 pounds) of foliage per day. While these browsers’ diverse diets have been reported to contain up to 93 different plant species, acacia trees have been found to be their favorite food source.

They are not heavy drinkers.

Giraffes drink water when it is available. They don’t need to drink water on a daily basis, which allows them to survive in areas with scarce water.

Young giraffes are self-sufficient but vulnerable.

Calves are about two meters tall and grow rapidly as much as two and half centimeters a day. By two months the young giraffe is eating leaves and at six months is fairly independent of its mother. A young giraffe can even survive early weaning at two or three months. Although few predators attack adult giraffes, lions, hyenas, and leopards take their toll on the young. Scientists report that only one quarter of infants survive to adulthood due to the high rates of predation.

Gallery
  • Giraffe Necking
  • Giraffe by Drone
  • Giraffe Billy Dodson
  • Giraffe Craig R. Sholley
  • Giraffe Billy Dodson
  • Giraffe Billy Dodson
  • ParcW Camera AWF
Challenges

Humans hunt giraffes for their hides and meat.

Giraffe tails are highly prized by many African cultures. The desire for good-luck bracelets, fly whisks, and thread for sewing or stringing beads have led people to kill the giraffe for its tail alone. Giraffes are easily killed and poaching (now more often for their meat and hide) continues today.

Giraffes are quickly losing their living spaces.

The number of giraffes in the wild is shrinking as their habitats shrink. In the late 19th and 20th centuries herds of 20 to 30 animals were recorded, now on average herd sizes contain fewer than six individuals. The IUCN lists four main threats to this species: habitat loss, civil unrest, illegal hunting, and ecological changes (climate change and habitat conversion). As human populations grow and increase agricultural activities, expand settlements, and construct roads, the giraffe is losing its beloved acacia trees, which are its main source of food.

Solutions

Our solutions to conserving the giraffe:

  • Educate local communities in conservation

    We educate communities living near giraffes on the importance of sustainable practices for agricultural and settlement growth by providing training on sustainable — and more productive — agricultural practices and incentivizing conservation agriculture when appropriate.

  • Reforest key areas.

    AWF has reforested acacia trees in West Africa to provide more food for the giraffe and allow it to expand its habitat.

Projects

Will you show the giraffe your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on programs like training for sustainable agriculture and reforestation efforts to replant their favorite food — acacia trees. Donate today to support wildlife conservation and ensure this species does not become endangered.

  • ParcW Camera AWF
    Wildlife Waterholes in Parc W
    Preserving wildlife amidst a drought

    Short rainy season proves disastrous for local fauna. 

    In Regional Parc W, 80% of the more than 30 water points are completely dry by March or April. The regular dry...

    Read more
    All Projects

  • Land for Livestock Christina Van Winkle
    Land for Livestock
    Balancing the land needs of farmers, herders, and wildlife

    Livestock is a vital livelihood for people in West Africa. So is farming.

    As competition over land and natural resources grows, pressure on protected areas and...

    Read more
    All Projects

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