(Giraffa camelopardalis)




Facts about this animal

Characterized by their size, their long legs and neck and distinct fur pattern, giraffes are unmistakable. Adult males stand 4.6-5.5 m tall and weigh 550-1800 kg. Females are shorter reaching a height of 4-4.8 m. The face is long and narrow with a haired muzzle. The head has a pair of short frontal horns covered with skin and hair, a median horn, sometimes only a knob, on the forehead, and sometimes a pair of very small horns on the occiput.


There is a short stiff mane of brown hair, and the long tail has a bushy tip. Giraffes inhabit both open savanna areas and wooded grasslands. They live in loosely bound, scattered herds of 10-40, sometimes more animals containing any possible combination of sexes and ages. Males establish and maintain their hierarchy by "necking" contests, or occasional violent sparring matches.


Each individual knows its relative status in the hierarchy, which minimizes aggression. The top-ranked male has first choice to the best feeding areas and females ready for mating.

Giraffes feed predominantly on various species of acacias. They also browse from the leaves and shoots of trees or shrubs of other species, but they are selective.


Giraffes reach sexual maturity at 3-4 years of age, although, in the wild, males may not breed until ages 6 or 7, due to a system of hierarchy among bulls. Breeding can occur at any time of the year. Gestation is usually 13-15 months. The female delivers a single calf while standing upright. The newborn, which can walk within an hour after birth, are about 183-193 cm tall and grow rapidly, reaching 3 m when being weaned at the age of one year. Giraffes live for 10-15 years in the wild, but average 25 years at zoos. Mostly there are nine subspecies of giraffe recognized, which are distinguished by their coat pattern: Nigerian (G.c. peralta), Kordofan (G.c. antiquorum), Nubian (G.c. camelopardalis), reticulated (G.c. reticulata), Rothschild (G.c. rothschildi), Masai (G.c. tippelskirchi), Thornicroft (G.c. thornicrofti), Angolan (G.c. angolensis) and South African or Cape (G.c. giraffa). Some authorities, however, lump together the Nigerian and Kordofan giraffes, the Nubian and Rothschilds, and the Angolan and Southern.

Did you know?
that the giraffe's long neck is carried by only seven vertebrae and that it contains elastic blood vessels with special valves that preven a sudden rush of blood to the giraffe's head when it is lowered to drink?


Name (Scientific) Giraffa camelopardalis
Name (English) Giraffe
Name (French) Girafe
Name (German) Giraffe
Name (Spanish) Jirafa
Local names Afrikaans: Kameelperd, Giraf
isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu: Indlulamithi
kiSwahili: Twiga
oshiVabo: Onduli
otjiHerero: Ombahi
sePedi, seTswana: Thutlwa
seSotho, seTswana: Thuhlo
siSwati: Indlulamitsi
tshiVenda: Thuda, thudwa
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Valerie Abbott



Range Sub-Saharan Africa
Habitat Savannas
Wild population Approx. 80.000, population trend is decreasing (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 1386 reported to ISIS (2009)

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Requirement 73 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.

Road transport (according to the South African Standard SANS 10331): Use crates specially designed for the transportation of giraffe. Giraffe should only be transported by competent and experienced capture teams.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Why do zoos keep this animal

Giraffes, being the tallest land mammales, are kept primarily for educational reasons and as ambassadors for their Subsaharan savanna habitat. In the case of the Rothschild's giraffe, which is endangered in the wild, the relatively substantial zoo population is ofconservation relevance.