Giraffes

Giraffes are the tallest animals of all.

Giraffes live in Africa.

Giraffes live in groups called herds.

Giraffes eat leaves.

Giraffes can run fast.

A baby giraffe is called a calf.

There are about 9 different sub-species, or breeds, of giraffe. There are only small differences between them. When giraffes of two differnet sub-species breed, the young are called hybrids (mixed breeds). Of the nine sub-species of giraffe, only one, the Rothchild's, is endangered.

Giraffes have long legs and long necks. There are 7 bones in their necks, the same as in ours. Males can grow to nearly five and a half metres tall, and females to nearly five metres tall.

Giraffes have horns called ossicones. These are fur-covered bumps on their skulls, unlike the horns of other animals. Giraffe skin is blotched in patterns of browns and yellows. No two have the same pattern. The different sub-species have different coat patterns.

Habitat
Giraffes are found in parts of Africa.They live on the savannah, which is the African grassland, or in light woodland. They do not live in thick forests where it is difficult to see predators such as lions approaching.
 

Giraffes live in groups called herds, although the members of a herd come and go. They don't stay together all the time.

Feeding
Giraffes are browsers, or leaf eaters. Their long necks are so they can reach high into trees to eat the leaves.

They have long blue-black tongues, 45-50 centimetres, that wrap around leaves and pick them from the branch. The long tongue helps them get leaves just out of reach.The dark colour of the tongue means it does not get sunburnt when it is out of the mouth.

Leaves give giraffes most of the moisture they need so that they do not often have to drink water.

Water holes are places where predators wait, and it is awkward for a giraffe to lower its head to drink. It has to spread its front legs wide to be able to get its head down. When its head is low, it is easier for predators to attack. Therefore, a giraffe only drinks about once a day, up to 40 litres each time.

Movement
Giraffes' long legs mean they take big steps when they walk or run. One step can be about
5 metres long. They can run very fast, reaching speeds of about nearly 60 km per hour. Because of their long legs and short bodies, giraffes move differently from other four legged animals. They move the two legs on one side of the body forward, then the two legs on the other side. This keeps them from tripping over.
 

Because of their long necks, giraffes have big hearts to pump blood all the way up to the brain. A giraffe heart is the biggest of any animal's. There are special valves in the neck arteries so that when the giraffe bends its neck down, the blood doesn't rush to its head. When the head is raised again, the blood doesn't rush back down to the heart. Such rapid changes in blood pressure would make a giraffe faint. 

Reproduction
Female giraffes give birth to a calf about 15 months after mating with a male. The mother gives birth standing up, so the calf drops to the ground. The calf is about 2 metres tall, and during its first week it grows about a centimetre a day. About an hour after birth, the calf can walk. It suckles milk from its mother, but starts nibbling at other food within days.  photograph © [2007] Jupiterimages Corporation

Self defence
Although giraffes are peaceful animals, they will defend themselves from lions, leopards and hyenas which attack the young, and sometimes adult giraffes. Giraffes give powerful kicks with all four legs, and a well placed kick can kill a lion. Sometimes male giraffes fight each other to decide which is stronger. They lean their hindquarters against each other for support and swing their necks, using their horns like hammers to hit each other.
 

People think giraffes are unable to make sounds, but they can. It's just that they do not often do it. They can make a moo, bleat or grunt. When alarmed, they snort.

Giraffes rarely sleep. In fact, they only go into a deep sleep for about 20 minutes each 24 hours, resting their heads on their hindquarters. The rest of the time, they doze now and then.

Threats to giraffes
Adult giraffes have few enemies, but young calves can be killed by leopards and hyenas. The most serious danger comes from humans who hunt giraffe for their skins. It is against the law to hunt giraffe but some people still do it.


Find out more about giraffes here
http://www.randomgiraffefacts.com/

http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-giraffe.html


If you use any part of this in your own work, acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Giraffes [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au (2006)

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