© Residents of Giraffe Manor in Nairobi. Kenya
The African giraffe, the tallest land mammal, is one of the most characteristic animals of Africa and is a highlight for many visitors on safari.
Due to their height and extraordinarily-long necks it is often thought that giraffe have different bone structures but they have the exact same amount of vertebra than other mammals. When giraffe bend down to drink a series of valves shuts of the blood stream to the head to prevent blood rushing to the head region.
Giraffe have the loosest social structure in the animal kingdom, with males and females moving independently. They do not form structured breeding or bachelor herds and come together in groups under chance or for a need for security. Male giraffe fight for dominance by using their necks and heads to batter their opponent into submission and gain an advantage. Although the fights seem violent, death and serious injuries seldom occur from fighting.
Giraffe give birth standing up - the calf dropping from a height of almost two meters but it quickly recovers and is able to keep up with the mother in a short space of time.
How many species of giraffe are there?
There is a great deal of debate going on regarding the classification of giraffe in Africa. Presently there are nine subspecies of the African giraffe, Giraffe camelopardalis, found in widely varied regions of the continent. The debate raging is whether to reclassify some of the sub-species as separate species or not.
There are definite differences in the colouration of the various sub-species with some showing dramatic markings. The reticulated and Rothschild giraffe are probably the most dramatically marked of all the sub-species.
Giraffe markings vary in shape, size and colouration. The shapes vary from straight-lined spots to jagged edged shapes. Of all the sub-species the southern giraffe has the greatest variety of markings leading the belief that this sub-species was the original giraffe species form where all the other sub-species developed.
The eight recognized sub-species of giraffe are: Reticulated giraffe (G. c. reticulata), Angolan giraffe (G. c. angolensis), Kordofan giraffe (G. c. antiquorum), Masai giraffe (G. c. tippelskirchi), Nubian Giraffe (G. c. camelopardalis), Rothschild Giraffe (G. c. rothschildi), South African giraffe (G. c. giraffa), Thornicroft giraffe (G. c. thornicrofti), West African giraffe (G. c. peralta)
Some of the better-known giraffe sub-species and where they can be seen include
- Reticulated giraffe (G. c. reticulata) Also known as: Somali Giraffe Best Places to see them: Samburu National Reserve, Kenya
- Masai giraffe (G. c. tippelskirchi) Also known as: Kilimanjaro giraffe Best Places to see them: Masai Mara and Serengeti
- Rothschild Giraffe (G. c. rothschildi) Also known as: Baringo Giraffe Ugandan Giraffe Best places to see them: Lake Nakuru National Park and Uganda
- South African giraffe (G. c. giraffa) Also known as: Southern giraffe Best Places to see them: Kruger National Park, Okavango Delta and Hwange National Park
- Thornicroft giraffe (G. c. thornicrofti) Also known as: Rhodesian giraffe Best Places to see them: South Luangwa National Park