Thought by the Romans to be a cross between a camel and a leopard – hence its name Giraffa Camelopardalis - this elegant slow moving animal failed to wow the crowds in the Colosseums. It is perhaps it’s lack of ‘charisma’ has resulted in its low status when it comes to completion for conservation funding, despite a 40% decline in wild populations. Giraffa.c.angolensis, the giraffe found in Namibia, is thought to be extinct in Angola.
This quintessentially African species has some extraordinary statistics – as much as 5,3 metres high they can weigh in at over a ton. An ungulate (meaning ‘being hoofed’) moves, like a camel, with a lateral gait – both front and back leg supporting the whole weight at the same time. Most other four-legged animals move with a transverse gait pattern – opposite front and back legs working together.
Adults have few predators however the unique desert adapted lions of the Kunene region have learned how to hunt adult giraffe (some unique footage can be seen on this Vanishing Kings video link) despite their ability to deliver a fatal kick with both front and hind legs. It is the calves who are most vulnerable to most larger predators.
Their evocative silhouettes can be seen in a variety of habitats where their unique dappled coat patterns often render them invisible even in the sparse vegetation. Highly adapted to living in deserts, giraffe are able to harvest condensed coastal fog off leaves and as a result don’t need to drink that often. Along with elephants and rhino, giraffe significantly change landscapes, opening up areas for other browsers and stimulating new growth. Ingested seeds are dispersed in their droppings and they are pollinators of some acacia species.
The Giraffe Conservation Foundation is the first ever long-term ecological monitoring of giraffe in Africa. Collecting and disseminating information they work in close partnership with local communities towards a sustainable future for giraffe in the wild.
This selfless dedication to the long term survival of this quintessentially African species is commendable and as a safari company who hopes to continue to see Africa’s gentle giants on our safaris for many, many years to come.