February 15, 2006
African Field Notes: The Giraffe
Giraffes are the tallest land mammal, adults growing up to about 18 ft tall.
Very thick drool and a long tongue almost 2 feet long help them to eat acacia trees with wicked thorns. The drool allows them to swallow the thorns without mesing up their digestive systems.
Giraffe's have a special circulatory system. They have very large and powerful hearts that can generate double the normal blood pressure for a large mammal in order to maintain blood flow to the brain against gravity. They have unusually elastic blood vessels with a series of valves that help offset the sudden buildup of blood (and to prevent fainting) when the head is raised, lowered or swung quickly.
Adult Giraffes are too large to be attacked by most predators, and a single blow from their hind leg can kill a lion.
You'll often see them in the same area as lions — always watching the predator — instead of running from it.
Young giraffes can fall prey to Lions, Leopards, hyenas, and African Wild Dogs. They are a predator favorite, causing fewer than 50% of young to reach adulthood.
The little giraffe to the left was about 6 feet tall. We saw it in the same place for three days in a row, near both of its parents. It would often hide behind a little bush with no leaves on it, as if we couldn't see it.
Latin Name: Giraffa camelopardalis
A Group Is Called: A Tower or Journey (More At: Critter Collectives)
Posted by sorsha at February 15, 2006 9:40 PM
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