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Scientific Name: 
Giraffa camelopardalis
Species class: 
Least Concern
Population Trend: 
Quick Facts

Life Span: 20 – 28 years in captivity (15 – 20 in the wild). Only 25-50% of giraffe calves reach adulthood.

Size: Tallest of all land animals. Males can be up to 6 metres in height, females up to 5 metres.

Weight: Males - 1100-1900 kg; Females - 700-1100kg; At birth, calves can weigh 45-70kg.

Collective Noun: Herd (nursery herd  = crèche)

Fun Facts

Neck: Despite its great length, the structure of a giraffe’s neck is very similar to that of other mammals. They have the same number of vertebrae as humans (7), only their neck bones are elongated and much larger than ours.

Hooves: The hooves of a giraffe can be the same diameter as an adult human head. They can kick in most directions to defend themselves and their young. Giraffes have enough strength in one kick to kill a lion.

Tongue: Giraffe have a tongue which can measure up to 45cm long! This is used to pick off the leaves, shoots and buds of many African trees that have long, sharp thorns. Giraffe spend most of their day grazing. The tongue’s blue colouration acts like sunscreen, which is highly necessary.

Closest relative: The giraffe is related to other even-toed ungulates, such as deer and cattle. Giraffe are placed in their own separate family though, along with the Okapi.

Heart: Their heart is as large as a basketball and can weigh up to 12kg. It pumps around 61 litres of blood a minute.

Drinking water: To drink water a giraffe must splay its front legs and bend at the knees. When their head is down a valve helps to regulate blood flow in order to prevent brain damage (and head spins!). Due to the length of their neck, a great deal of pressure is needed for blood to reach the brain (double the blood pressure of other large mammals).

Tails: Giraffe use their metre-long tuft of black hair on their tails to very effectively swat tsetse flies away.

Eyes: With the largest eyes of any land mammal giraffe have great eyesight and can see clearly up to 2km away. They perceive colour.

Walk: Giraffe walk with the limbs on one side of their body lifted at the same time. This gait is called a pace and allows a longer stride, saving steps and energy.

Relationships: Giraffe have mutually beneficial relationships with a few species of birds, such as the oxpecker. These birds sit on the giraffe’s backs and eat parasites living in their coats. This helps giraffe as parasites could weaken them physically, leaving them more vulnerable to prey.

Scientific Name: The scientific name of the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) “camel leopard” refers to their unusual patches of colour on a light background. When the giraffe was first documented this coat pattern was thought to resemble that of a leopard. Such an irregular coat pattern is thought to camouflage these creatures under the mottled sunlight of the trees they feed upon.
The word giraffe is believed to have originated from the Arabic word ‘ziraafa’ or zuraph, meaning ‘assemblage’. 

Distribution Map: 

The Giraffe is an even-toed ungulate and is the tallest of all animals. Males have been recorded as growing up to 5.5 metres in height and weighing over 1000 kg. Giraffes are characterised by their extremely long neck, long legs and distinctive spotted coat pattern. The giraffe is related to other even-toed ungulates, such as deer and cattle. Giraffes are placed in their own separate family though, with their only living relative – the Okapi.

At Taronga:

Taronga has 4 giraffes. We have three females; Nyota (DOB: 5th Jan 1992), Zarafa (DOB: 6th July 2003) and Kitoto (DOB: 5th Feb 2010), and one male named Jimiyu (DOB: 6th Feb 2006).

Nyota is the daughter of Hope – a famous giraffe who, before her passing, became one of the oldest in the Australasian region. Nyota is now the oldest member of the Taronga herd and is also one of the most dominant, being quite tall for a female. She and Jimiyu can often be seen pushing each other out of the way for carrots when guests are feeding them. Nyota never seems to run out of appetite for these treats!

Zarafa was born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. When she first arrived at her new home in Sydney she was amazed by the views of Sydney Harbour, especially the lights of the city at night. Zarafa could always be identified as the young giraffe who was staring at the beautiful views for hours on end.

Jimiyu was also born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. He was transported in a large crate on the back of a truck with a police escort. By the time he arrived at Taronga, the streets of Mosman were lined with well-wishers.
Keepers at Western Plains Zoo familiarised Jimiyu with the travelling crate for a few months prior to his journey. They utilised techniques developed by zoos that emphasise and encourage cooperation between keepers and animals to make the transfer of animals easy and comfortable.

Kitoto was also born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. Her trip to Sydney was delayed by a day because it was raining in Dubbo and Kitoto did not want to get into her transport crate! She had a police escort for the trip, and was able to stick her head out of the crate to enjoy the scenery along the way – much to the surprise of onlookers! Kitoto has settled in very well thanks to her playful and friendly nature and has been bonding with the other giraffe in the herd, in particular our male giraffe Jimiyu.
Taronga Zoo and Western Plains Zoo have bred over 90 giraffe since the 1930s.

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