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Giraffe: Vulnerable Species

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Giraffes are listed as a vulnerable species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). It is devastating that this popular and gentle wild animal is now vulnerable to extinction in the near future.

Historically the giraffe has been overlooked in terms of research and conservation, but in the past five years their population size has been noticeably declining. Dr. Julian Fennessy of Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) recently exposed the shocking fact that giraffe populations in Africa are down by 40 percent in just two decades. There are reported to be only 68,293 mature giraffes left in the wild.

Ten Interesting Facts About Giraffe: A Vulnerable Species

  1. Giraffes are the tallest mammals on Earth and stand at around 4-5m high. Their legs alone are taller than many humans. The tallest giraffes can reach up to 5.9m, which is over a meter higher than a double-decker bus!
  2. A giraffe's neck is too short to reach the ground. As a result, it has to spread its front legs or kneel to reach the ground for a drink of water.
  3. Giraffes only have seven vertebrae in their neck – the same number as humans and most other mammals.
  4. Giraffes spend most of their lives standing up. They sleep and give birth standing up.
  5. 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.
  6. Giraffes don’t need to drink because they can get enough water just eating leaves.
  7. Giraffes play an important role as pollinators and seed spreaders, which is vital to maintaining healthy landscapes across sub-Saharan Africa. 
  8. A giraffe heart can weigh approximately 11kg and this is the biggest of any land mammal.
  9. The gestation period for a giraffe is about 15 months. Generally, only a single baby is born.
  10. Giraffes used to be distributed throughout North and West Africa, including along the Nile. Today giraffes are only found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Brendon Jennings Kariega Giraffe Family

Which Giraffe Species Are Most Vulnerable?

There are four distinct giraffe species which all live in geographically distinct areas across Africa. The southern giraffe species is found at Kariega Game Reserve and across southern Africa, Masai giraffe are found in central and southern Kenya and throughout Tanzania, reticulated giraffe is found predominantly in central, north and northeastern Kenya and the northern giraffe species is found in Africa’s more unstable areas including southern Chad, Central African Republic, northern Cameroon, northern Democratic Republic of Congo and western South Sudan. 

The most vulnerable giraffe species is the northern giraffe with less than 5,200 mature individuals. There are reported to be approximately 52,000 mature southern giraffe, some of which are successfully breeding at Kariega.

Did you enjoy wonderful southern giraffe species sightings while on safari at Kariega Game Reserve? Please share your comments, videos and images on our Kariega Facebook page, on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. We'd also love to read your comments below.

Photos thanks to guides Jo Haesslich and Brendon Jennings.