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Okapi and Giraffe: Giraffidae

Giraffe (giraffa Camelopardalis): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: These animals stand up to 18 feet (5.5 meters) tall and weigh between 1,200 and 4,350 pounds (550 to 1,930 kilograms). Coat patterning helps to camouflage them, and no two coats are alike.

Geographic range: Giraffes live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Habitat: Giraffes are found in dry savannas.

Diet: Giraffes feed on leaves of more than 100 tree and shrub species. They use their tongues and thin lips to select only the most

Newborn giraffes are 6 feet (2 meters) tall and weigh between 110 and 120 pounds (50 to 55 kilograms). (© St. Meyers/OKAPIA/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

nutrient-dense leaves. Male giraffes can eat up to 145 pounds (66 kilograms) of food a day, but can also survive on as little as 15 pounds (7 kilograms) a day when food is scarce. They have four stomach chambers, which allows them to digest food more efficiently by swallowing food whole, regurgitating (vomiting), chewing, and swallowing again. They will drink water if available, but this makes them vulnerable to predators, so they often drink with a friend keeping watch.

Behavior and reproduction: Giraffes live in herds of up to twenty animals. Herds can be all-female, all-male, mixed, or female with young. Home ranges vary from 2 to 252 square miles (5 to 654 square kilometers), depending on food and water availability. Male giraffes spend 43 percent of their time each day feeding, and 22 percent walking. Females feed for more than half the day, and walk for 13 percent of the time. Giraffes rest at night. Though usually silent, giraffes will vocalize when looking for lost calves or when in danger.

Females are ready to breed at four years, and do so year-round. They give birth standing up, sometimes while walking, so the baby falls about 6 feet (2 meters) to the ground. Newborns are 6 feet (2 meters) tall and weigh between 110 and 120 pounds (50 to 55 kilograms). Babies are born with horns. Predators include hyenas, lions, leopards, and wild dogs. Giraffes use their height to detect predators while they're still in the distance.

Giraffes and people: Giraffes are hunted and poached for meat, skin, and hair. They are a main attraction in zoos.

Conservation status: The giraffe is not currently threatened, but has disappeared from its former range in western Africa. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsOkapi and Giraffe: Giraffidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Giraffe (giraffa Camelopardalis): Species Accounts, Okapi (okapia Johnstoni): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, OKAPIS GIRAFFES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION