Paula Gilhooley…..Giraffe in Kruger National Park

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Giraffe are easily recognized because of their height and long neck and legs.  Their bodies are covered with irregular patches of fawn, chestnut-brown, dark brown and nearly black on a cream or off white background.  In South Africa’s Lowveld, adult male giraffe can be up to 3.5 meters in height at the shoulder with females being about 2.9 meters.  Maximum height of males is 5.5 meters and females 4.5 meters with a maximum weight of males at 1,930 kg and females at 1,180kg.  Males are larger, often darker and have thicker horns and have a small horn in the middle of their forehead that most females lack.

Giraffe can be found in woodlands, but not where the canopy is closed.  They only use grasslands for traveling and can be independent of water if there is enough green foliage available.  They are exclusive browsers eating leaves, fresh shoots, flowers and fruits from trees.  Acacias are their most important source of food which they add soil or bones to get minerals.

Giraffe bear a single young at any time during the year.  Babies weigh 100kg at birth and are 1.5 meters high.  they begin eating foliage at about 2 weeks and are weaned at 6-8 months.  They are sexually mature at 4-6 years and live up to 20 years.

Most active early in the morning and late in the afternoon, during the middle of the day they tend to rest in the shade.  At night they rest lying down. Females and young occur in loose herds up to about a dozen.  Young males form small groups and mature bulls are nearly always alone.

In Kruger their home range is 25 km but can be between 80 -120 km in some areas.  Young males often spar with neck wrestling trying to push the opponent off balance.  Neck twining can also occur in courtship as a preliminary to more serious fights.  The impact of the blows can be heard a 100 meters away.    They are generally silent but can bellow, grunt or snort when alarmed.  Their heavy hoofs are a defense against lions and are able to kill or cripple their .

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