Visitor & Tickets
Animals & Exhibits
Learning Adventures
ANIMAL
OF THE WEEK
Each Amur tiger has a unique pattern of stripes, which acts as an identifier for other tigers. read more >

Reticulated giraffe

Scientific name: Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata


CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Artiodactyla
FAMILY: Giraffidae 

FEEDING TYPE: Herbivore
STATISTICS: Weight 1,700-4,200 lb Height 15-17 feet

DESCRIPTION:
This giraffe is blond to light brown in color with darker brown patches. Both males and females have horns, called ossicones, which are covered with skin. The female’s horns are smaller than the males and are generally covered with hair on the top.

RANGE:
Sub-Saharan Africa

HABITAT:
Open woodlands and grasslands

ADAPTATIONS:
The giraffe’s long neck is a specialized adaptation to reach leaves and vegetation in the treetops. Its neck can be five to six feet long and weigh up to 500 pounds.

To aid with food collection, giraffe have tongues up to 17 inches long and prehensile (grasping) lips. It can wrap its tongue around a branch and strip the leaves off with ease.

Giraffe also have a unique system of valves that keep blood from rushing to their heads and making them pass out every time they lower their heads to drink. Giraffe have very efficient methods of water retention that allow them to go for weeks without drinking, living only on morning dew and the water content of their food.

Giraffes are non-territorial, social animals. They travel in large herds that are not organized in any way. Herds may consist of any combination of sexes or ages.

Males may be seen “necking” or wrapping their head and neck around each other. This may have a variety of functions including combat. The male will deliver a blow with his head to the other male’s head or neck occasionally knocking the other to the ground. These fights rarely last more than a few minutes. Those males that are successful in necking generally breed more than the other males.

REPRODUCTION/GROWTH:
Giraffes reach sexual maturity after five years. Calves are born from a standing position after a 15-month gestation period, meaning that they drop six feet when they are born. Giraffe young are very precocious, able to walk within five minutes and able to feed twenty minutes later.

PREY/PREDATOR:
Prey to: lions, hyenas, and African hunting dogs
Predators to: None

WILD DIET:
Leaves, shoots, flowers, and vines

STATUS:
It is currently listed as Least Concern with the IUCN Red List. Giraffes are relatively common throughout Africa, although their numbers in West Africa have been significantly depleted due to poaching. Giraffes are hunted for their meat, coat and tails. The tail is prized for good luck bracelets, fly whisks and string for sewing beads. The coat is used for shield coverings. Habitat destruction and fragmentation are also threats to giraffe populations.

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • There are up to eight different sub-species of giraffe.
  • Giraffes are not silent, as commonly believed, and can actually make a variety of noises including grunts, snorts, and bleats. Also, a little known fact is that despite its incredible height and thin legs, the giraffe is still able to lie down to sleep.
  • The world’s tallest animal, a giraffe can easily look into a second-storey window.
  • The movement and position of the animal’s neck are used to express emotion. When it is angry, a giraffe will lower its neck until it is almost horizontal. In submission, it stretches its neck and raises its nose in the air.
  • The giraffe is one of only two living species of the family Giraffidae, along with the okapi which can also be found at Sedgwick County Zoo.


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Fennessy, J. & Brown, D. 2008. Giraffa camelopardalis. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. Retrieved on 24 August 2009.
  2. Nowak, Ronald. Walker’s Mammals of the World, 5th Ed, Vol. I. Johns Hopkins University Press. 1991
  3. Cameron, E. Z. & du Toit, J. T. (2007). "Winning by a Neck: Tall Giraffes Avoid Competing with Shorter Browsers". American Naturalist 169 (1): 130–135.

Published: June 2010

Want to learn more about animals?

Check out our Learning Adventures for newborn to 99.

Early Childhood
Elementary
Middle / High School
Adult
Family
Homeschool
Senior Citizens

Hours of Operation
Summer Hours8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(Beginning March 1)
Winter Hours10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(Beginning November 1)
Open 364 Days a Year!*
*The Zoo will be closed one day only, September 6, 2014 to facilitate the preparation of the annual Zoo fundraiser, Zoobilee. For Zoobilee ticket information please call 266-8APE (8273).
E-NEWSLETTER SIGNUP