Seemingly the supermodels of the savannah, these astonishing animals are one of the highlights of a visit to Werribee Open Range Zoo.
While the giraffe is listed on the international red list of threatened species as being among animals of ‘least concern’, there is nevertheless some concern that the numbers of giraffe in the wild are decreasing. Poaching for the giraffe’s pelt, meat and tail has significantly reduced the wild population (the hair that grows at the end of the tail is used for threading beads and making bracelets). The expanding human population is encroaching on areas where giraffe formerly roamed freely.
Visiting the giraffes at the Zoo will not just open your eyes to these wondrous creatures, but you can also learn about the Zoo’s conservation programs.
The giraffe lives in the African savannah. The open woodlands and grasslands of East Africa, particularly in Uganda, Sudan and Kenya, are home to the Rothschild Giraffe. There are nine subspecies of giraffe, and all have a characteristic walk, moving the legs on the same side of the body simultaneously. The subspecies are distinguished from each other by their coat patterns and geographical locations.
Giraffes are nearly 2 metres in height when born and males can reach a height of more than 5 metres when fully grown. Excellent eyesight and a good sense of hearing are features of all giraffe subspecies. An animal can see a human standing 2km away. When it is alarmed it may snort or grunt and it can run at a speed of 60km/h if it is being pursued. In order to defend itself, the giraffe will kick vigorously with its front legs.
Acacia leaves form the bulk of the giraffe’s diet, but other trees are also browsed. A male, or bull, can eat up to 80kg of leaves each day, along with bark and fruit.
- The giraffe is the tallest of all mammals, males reaching a height of about 5.5 metres and females about 5 metres
- To circulate blood all through this tall body, the giraffe has the biggest heart of any animal, weighing about 12kg!
- A giraffe’s tongue can reach up to 45cm long and 8cm wide! The tongue’s dark colour prevents blistering in the sun
- Always alert for danger, giraffes sleep for approximately two hours a day, and catch quick 5–6 minute naps for the rest of the time
- Close to 2 metres long, the giraffe’s neck has seven vertebrae like other mammals, just longer. The long neck means great changes in blood pressure as a giraffe lowers or raises its head, so special blood vessels and valves compensate. Without this adaptation, giraffes would faint when blood pressure increased