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Girafe dans le désert du Kalahari © PlanetNoé - Alain Mafart Renodier

The West African giraffe

The giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis, is the tallest land animal in the world and can grow up to 5.5 metres tall. It is particularly fond of acacia leaves and uses its slender 45 cm long tongue to slip between the thorns of the tree and pick the tender shoots.

Profile

Class, order and family :
Mammalia, Cetartiodactyla, Giraffidae
Life span :
up to 20-25 years
Size & Weight :
up to 5½ m and up to 1,900 kg for males
Gestation period :
14 - 15 months, 1 baby giraffe
Natural habitat :
savanna
Diet :
folivore – acacia leaves
Native region :
West Africa
Statut UICN : 

Vulnerable (VU)

Lifestyle

The male giraffe is a bit too forward with the females in the group. As soon as they are on heat, every 15 days, he is in a hurry to court them and has no reservations about dismissing his rivals by slamming them with… his neck. To limit confrontations, it is best to keep him apart from the rest.

Distinctive features

No other mammal in the savanna is as tall as the giraffe and can pick the leaves from the treetops. It uses its 45 cm long tongue to gather the young, tender shoots, avoiding the thorns.
Its heart weighs over 10 kg and is very powerful, pumping the blood with enough force to reach its brain over 2 metres away (compared to 30 cm in humans). It pumps up to 60 litres of blood per minute. The distance between a giraffe’s heart and brain is, in fact, over 2 metres, compared to 30 cm in Man. Its arteries are very elastic and can cope with high blood pressure.

Anecdote

The anatomical features required for the giraffe to pump the blood to its brain, deal with the difference in blood pressure when it lowers its head to drink and prevent its legs from swelling, have inspired NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in its design of astronauts’ anti-gravity spacesuits.