The Living Desert
Home  >  Animals  >  Giraffe


Giraffa camelopardalis


Bovidae, the cow and goat family.

Conservation Status:

Vulnerable, IUCN

In 1998 the IUCN estimated the total number of giraffe in Africa to exceed 140 000. Latest estimates IUCN indicate that giraffe numbers have plummeted across Africa by ~40% to <98,000 individuals in the past two decades. Giraffe inhabit eighteen African countries and appear to have gone extinct in at least seven countries.


Giraffe are mainly found south of the Sahara to eastern Transvaal, Natal, and northern Botswana.



Semiarid plains, savannas and woodland areas.


To drink, giraffes must splay their legs or kneel and their spots are like fingerprints–each pattern is unique.

Giraffes are tan with white markings and their long eyelashes and closable nostrils protect against blowing sand. Their long necks allow them to reach food high up in the trees and their tongues can be up to 18” long, which helps to grasp leaves, while their upper lip acts like a finger to pull on branches. They eat shoots, leaves, fruits, bark and seedpods, but their favorite is the acacia tree, which contains almost all of the nutrients they need, except salt and calcium, and can contain up to 74% water. They can consume up to 75 pounds of food in 24 hours and can go a long time without drinking water when eating acacia leaves.

Lions, leopards, African wild dog, cheetahs, hyenas and crocodiles can kill young or weak giraffes and the survival rate of young is low.

Male ranges are fairly stable, but female ranges less so, though they usually return to the same calving areas each year. A female can bear her first calf at 5 years of age. Gestation is approximately 15 months and only one calf is born which will be nursed for 9-10 months.

Zoo News