Here are some fascinating facts about giraffes that adults and kids will both find interesting.
By Meenambika Menon
Are giraffes endangered?
Out of nine sub-species of giraffe three have been listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and another three as vulnerable to near threatened. Two sub-species are yet to be assessed. The only sub-specie, the Angolan giraffe is of least concern.
Where can we find giraffes in India?
It is believed that a specie Bohlinia entered China and northern India in response to climate change. From there, the genus Giraffa evolved and entered Africa. Further climate changes caused the extinction of the Asian giraffes. The ecosystem in which giraffes live is called the savannah. The Indian subcontinent is not conducive for giraffes. We can see them in some of the zoos across the country.
What is the average height of a giraffe?
The average height of an adult giraffe is 4.6 – 6.1 m.
What’s so special about a giraffe’s heart?
A giraffe has the biggest heart among all the animals. A giraffe’s heart weighs roughly 11.34 kg and measures approximately around 61 cm long.
Why does a giraffe not get dizzy when it raises its head quickly from the ground to 15 feet high?
The giraffe has a characteristic that belongs to it alone, apart from any other animal, a kind of sponge in the base of the brain. This network of small blood vessels “rete mirabile” behaves like a sponge that absorbs blood when the animal leans forward. The mesh expands its vessels to contain the blood that enters the brain and to prevent an increase in pressure. However, for the giraffe, intraocular pressure (fluid pressure inside the eyes) is twice as high. (The intraocular pressure in humans is approximately 100 mm Hg, and the giraffe’s is double that.) Conversely, when the giraffe raises its head, causing a negative effect on the pressure, this sponge engorged with blood immediately infuses the brain until the heart pushes blood to the head. This particular evolutionary development leads a special mechanism to compensate for the substantial effects of hydrostatic pressure. The arteries of the neck are supported by ringed muscles that push blood to the brain. The valves in the jugular vein fight gravity by preventing the rapid descent of blood into the brain when the head is lowered, and they direct flow towards the heart.
Do giraffes sleep and when? How much do they sleep in a day?
In the wild, giraffes almost never lie down because of vulnerability to predators. They usually sleep standing, sometimes sitting. When giraffes sleep, they curl their necks and sleep for about five minutes at a time, sleeping no more than 30 minutes a day.
Are giraffes intelligent and how do we know if they are?
They are brilliant animals. They are known to be very good at adapting to their environment. When drinking water, giraffes have learned to gulp in order to avoid predators while in a vulnerable position. When it comes to sleeping, being able to move in a matter of seconds in the body of a 1300 kg animal is not easy. They have adapted to be able to survive on 30 minutes or less of sleep a day.
Zoo interns have shared that giraffes can recognise their given names. They are also very intelligent when it comes to food. The giraffes at the zoo were fed at 11 every day. Sure enough, by 10.45 am each day they would be at the feeding deck waiting. They also knew that the cardboard box meant leaves of lettuce. They would even become extra greedy sometimes and try to sneak extra pieces out with their long tongues thinking they wouldn’t be seen. The intelligence of giraffes is a factor in how quickly they adapt behaviourally in response to changing external stimuli.
Giraffes have a very interesting social structure. The females generally bond very well together so you will see them in small herds with about 10-12 members. Although giraffes have been seen in larger groups, it has been observed that these larger groups are for extra protection of the young while eating. These larger groups mainly consist of females.
What do they eat and how much in a day? Do they drink water?
In the wild, giraffes primarily eat the leaves and twigs of acacia, mimosa, and wild apricot trees (also various trees and shrubs in the genera Commiphora and Terminalia). They even eat some fruit.
Giraffes may eat up to 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of food per day. They spend most of their day eating, because they get just a few leaves in each bite. Their favourite leaves are from acacia trees. If water is easily available, like in zoos, they can drink 10 gallons (38 litres) a day.
How fast can a giraffe run?
A giraffe can run up to the speed of 60 km/h.
Can a giraffe sit down? Can they jump? Can they kick?
Giraffes can sit down but they usually don’t sit because of vulnerability to predators. Giraffes do not jump. A giraffe can kick in any direction and in a manner of ways, and its kick can not only kill a lion, but has even been known to decapitate (behead) it.
How do giraffes give birth?
Giraffes give birth while standing up after a gestation period of 13-15 months. The calf enters the world from quite a height. They fall 6 feet to the ground with hooves and head first.
If a lion and a giraffe fight, who would win?
A lion and a giraffe are no match for a fight. A lion can never beat a giraffe due to its colossal size and height. A giraffe is so tall that a lion can never reach its throat for a bite, which is how it usually tackles big animals. When hunting adult giraffes, lions try to knock the lanky animal off its feet and pull it down.
What is their lifespan?
The average life span of a giraffe is 25-28 years.
(Source: With inputs from http://www.bornfree.org.uk, jocelyndelhotalgiraffes.blogspot.com, news.nationalgeographic.com, giraffeconservation.org.)
(The writer is Lead, Curriculum – Science & Math at Shiv Nadar School.)