When it comes to African mammals, there are few who would disagree that the impressive Giraffe ranks as one of the most extraordinary. For many of us, we are somewhat familiar with them through pictures and documentaries, or maybe even a visit to the local zoo, but seeing a Giraffe in its natural habitat – the vast African savanna, always ranks as a thrilling experience.
Giraffes are just so unique – an impressive 5 meters tall, with awkward, gangly legs, long necks and an almost constant quizzical look upon their faces. They belong to the family Giraffidae, which also has one other member – the little-known and extremely rare Okapi, which is only found in the Congo Basin forests of the eastern DRC and the Semliki Valley in far western Uganda.
Typically, males tend to be taller than females, with the tallest Giraffe on record measuring a towering 5.88 meters. Giraffes are also rather heavy, and males typically weigh in at around 1,200 kg (2,650 lb) while the heaviest on record was a hefty 1,930 kg (4,250 lb). Their long prehensile tongue – measuring around 45 cm, is extremely useful for wrapping around foliage and for general grooming.
Global authorities generally recognise just one species of Giraffe – Giraffa Camelopardalis; while nine subspecies are currently noted. These can be found from Southern Africa through East Africa and into parts of West Africa as far as Niger and Benin. Unfortunately, much of the Giraffe’s range is now fragmented and the species is suffering badly from habitat loss and indiscriminate hunting over vast parts of its range. Testimony to this is its current IUCN status, which lists the species as Vulnerable, with a frightening 50% drop in numbers in just 20 years. The next status level is endangered, which fully reflects just how badly Giraffes are doing as a species at the hand of man.
Fortunately, a few of the subspecies are still somewhat widespread and are found in a respectable number of national parks and protected areas, which should help to ensure their future for a little while longer. These include the Masai Giraffe – G. c. tippelskirchi, which occurs through much of Kenya and Tanzania, Southern Giraffe – G. c. giraffa, which is almost exclusively found through South Africa and marginally into southern Zimbabwe, Angolan Giraffe – G. c. angolensis, which occurs primarily through Namibia, Botswana and western Zimbabwe, and the strikingly patterned Reticulated Giraffe – G. c. reticulata, found primarily through northern Kenya. Sadly, many Giraffe subspecies are now extremely localized. These include Thornicroft’s Giraffe – G. c. thornicrofti, which is endemic to the Luangwa Valley in Zambia and numbers just 550 individuals, Rothschild’s Giraffe – G. c. rothschildi, which is confined to a few isolated populations through Uganda and Kenya and is thought to number just 1,500, Kordofan Giraffe – G. c. antiquorum, which is now highly localized through northern Cameroon and adjacent Chad and Central African Republic with only 2,000 individuals remaining, and the nominate Nubian Giraffe – G. c. camelopardis, which is found in southern Sudan and western Ethiopia and also numbers around 2,000 individuals. The rarest of all is the Western Giraffe – G. c. peralta, which is found only in Niger and far north Benin and thought to number just 400 individuals in the wild.
Rockjumper Wildlife offers multiple destinations through Africa where the iconic Giraffe can still be found. A few of our upcoming trips where Giraffe sightings can be enjoyed include Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa
South Africa – Cape & Zululand Wildlife Safari
23 Aug – 03 Sep 2020 (12 days)
Tour Price: ZAR54,500
South Africa – Kruger & Cape Wildlife Safari
01 – 10 Oct 2020 (10 days)
Tour Price: ZAR54,500
Northern Tanzania – Ultimate Ngorongoro & Serengeti
01 – 11 Nov 2020 (11 days)
Tour Price: USD5,975