Giraffe Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Giraffe

Scientific Name:

Giraffa camelopardalis

Wild Status:

Vulnerable

Habitat:

savanna and woodland

Country:

Chad to South Africa (north to south), Niger to Somalia (west to east)

Shelter:

African plains

Life Span:

more than 20 years

Size:

14-18 feet tall; 1800-4000 pounds

Cool Facts:

The species name for the giraffe, “camelopardalis,” derives from the fact that in ancient times the giraffe was believed to be a hybrid of camel and leopard.   Giraffes belong to their own family, the Giraffidae, which use to be considerably more diverse. There were many different forms ranging through the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, many sporting fabulous ossicones. Today, the only living relative of the giraffe is the okapi.   Genetic research in 2016 suggested that what was once considered one giraffe species may in fact be as many as eight due to different populations being isolated from each other and unable to interbreed.   Giraffes are the only ungulates that are born with cranial ornamentation. Unlike horns, ossicones are derived from ossified cartilage covered in skin that continues to grow through the animal’s lifetime. Giraffes are sexually dimorphic, with males sporting larger, thicker ossicones than females. These are used to fight each other for dominance in a form of combat called necking. During the rut, males stand side-by-side and use their heads and necks like quarter-ton sledgehammers to bludgeon each other into submission.

Details:

The giraffe is one of the few remaining megafaunal species and the world’s tallest living mammal, with the largest males standing nearly 20 feet tall and up to two tons, the are also the world's largest artiodactyl. Giraffes are highly specialized browsers that inhabit savannas and woodlands throughout Africa. They feed primarily on acacia leaves, which they strip from the branches using 18-inch, prehensile tongues. Like many other ungulates, giraffes sport cranial ornamentation in the form hornlike growths known as ossicones. Their distinctive coat pattern is believed to help them camouflage amongst the trees, dissipate heat, and recognize individuals within their herd.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Artiodactyla Family: Giraffidae Genus: Giraffa Species: G. camelopardalis

Conservation & Helping:

While not currently endangered, giraffes are considered vulnerable. The total population estimated at around 97,000 individuals in the wild and just under 1200 in captivity. Giraffes are at risk from hunting and deforestation.

For Teachers and Educators

Giraffe-Fact-Sheet.pdf

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