110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted May 13, 2013 - 10:08:11am
Two giraffes, one brown- and one black-patterned, stood side by side at the St. Louis Zoo. I had never seen a dark one before, but Google had the answer: Giraffes become darker and darker as they age! Like our fingerprints, each giraffe has a different pattern on its short fur.
Nine subspecies of giraffes exist, but some are close to extinction. They are all similar in size, but can be distinguished by their patches of orange, brown or black separated by cream-colored fur. The patterns can be small, medium or large, sharp-edged or fuzzy-edged.
The looooong 6-foot neck is the giraffe's most distinguishing feature and also its weapon. A giraffe can swing its neck at a foe as a means of defense.
Lions are giraffes' main predator, but spotted hyenas and wild dogs prey on the giraffes' calves and must be fought off by an adult giraffe when possible. A male giraffe will fight another male to be superior and to get to mate with the best female.
Males are about 20 feet tall and weigh about 2,600 pounds. The smaller females are 16 feet tall and weigh 1,800 pounds.
The giraffe's purple tongue is 18 inches long, and it curls around leaves and other vegetation that the animal wants to eat. Males eat from the tallest part of the trees up to 17 feet high, leaving the lower part for the females.
Each giraffe eats up to 75 pounds of food each day, and drinks 10 gallons of water. However, like a camel, giraffes can go a few days without food or water if necessary. Acacia leaves are their favorite food, but other kinds of plants will also suffice.
More giraffe traits: Both sexes have big brown eyes, and have little "knobs" on their head. They have a four-chambered stomach and will regurgitate their food for additional chewing, much like cows do!
After a 14-month gestation period, the female gives birth to a 6-foot-tall baby. The mothers have a version of baby-sitting: One mom will watch youngsters while the other moms forage for food. What a nice trait! They communicate with each other with a moo, hiss, roar, or whistle. The females have the sole responsibility of raising the young.
The tip of the 3-foot-long tail has a dark tuft of hair that is used as a fly swatter! Giraffes can gallop at about 35 mph. How interesting to know all this trivia!
These amazing mammals live about 25 years. They are native to Africa, and are the tallest living terrestrial animal in the world. Savannas, grasslands and open woodlands are their habitat.
These are truly awesome animals and fun to watch at a zoo!
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