The gentle giant

The most remarkable animal to spot on safari, is the majestic giraffe and the sight of a giraffe browsing on the leaves of a sublime acacia tree is synonymous with Africa. A giraffe is the world’s tallest land mammal, attaining a height of 5.5m, with its incredibly long neck accounting for much of its height. Although a giraffe’s neck is too short to reach the ground, it results them to awkwardly spread their front legs or kneel to reach the ground for a drink of water.

There is so much more to these fascinating creatures, than their long necks and unique coat patterns. A giraffe’s spots are much like human fingerprints. No two individual giraffes have exactly the same pattern and male and female giraffes have two distinct, hair-covered horns called ossicones. Ossicones are formed from ossified (hardened into bone) cartilage and are covered in skin. Male giraffes use their horns to sometimes fight with other males. If you’ve never heard the word ‘necking’ before or are wondering how it applies to giraffes, it’s the way male giraffes, or bulls, fight each other and fight for dominance. They would do this by swinging their neck around and hitting the opposing giraffe with it. This also occurs often in bachelor herds.

Being extremely sociable, giraffes only need 5 to 30 minutes of sleep in a 24-hour period. They often achieve that in quick naps that may last only a minute or two at a time. They only need to drink once every few days and most of their water comes from all the plants they eat, in particularly they enjoy eating the leaves of the acacia tree and can eat as much as 29 kilograms of leaves and twigs daily. Herds of three or more giraffes spend hours browsing and greedily gobble up as much of the delicious foliage as they can. The giraffe’s tongue is about 45cm in length and highly prehensile. This allows the animal to successfully negotiate the bigger thorns and pull the leaves from the branch.

Giraffes often move around in groups, known as towers, but can be seen alone as well. There are several collective nouns for a group of giraffes. A “journey of giraffes” is another term that’s occasionally used. Like the other collective nouns for giraffes, it describes them accurately. At least, when they’re on the move. Just sit back and enjoy the moment when you come across them at Tshukudu Game Lodge – it’s an incredibly therapeutic and relaxing way to spend your time and, more often than not, they make for truly fantastic sightings.

However much you know giraffes, to see one in the wild for the first time feels prehistoric.

“Jane Goodall”


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