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Photo by Tui De Roy

Giraffes on Parade

Giraffes have been front and center on the live cams at the Mpala Research Centre recently. On Mpala, we have reticulated giraffes–in our opinion the most beautiful of the nine sub-species. In an informal poll at the Mpala Research Centre a few years ago, the giraffe was voted the most popular of all our animals. it is easy to understand their fascination. These animals, whose very name means “graceful” in Arabic, lope across the landscape at 35 MPH! They are Earth’s tallest mammal and reach heights of 19 feet. If you are ever in Nairobi, you can feed them at the Giraffe Center. The touch of their gentle, velvet mouths is unforgettable. On Mpala, we keep a respectful distance from our wild giraffes.

photo by V. May

Enjoy these fun facts:

*Male giraffes engage in a behavior called necking, where they use their heavy skulls to bash into one another’s sides. This display, which can be extremely violent, is used to assert dominance.
*Their tongues, which can be up to 18 inches (45 cm) long, are very agile and help them carefully select and grab their food.
*Giraffes prefer leaves from various species of acacia trees and have developed thick saliva that helps protect their tongues from the thorns.
*Females gestate for 15 months, after which they leave the herd and give birth to a single calf.
*A female giraffe gives birth standing up, with her back legs bent slightly. The calf’s 6.6-foot (2-m) fall serves to break the umbilical cord.
*A calf learns to stand within 30 minutes of its birth, and remains closely bonded with its mother for the next 14 to 22 months.

You can learn more about these intriguing creatures in our online Field Guide.
And teachers– you’ll find conservation education resources in our online Classroom.