Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Artiodactyla, Suborder: Ruminantia, Family: Giraffidae
People have marveled over the giraffe's height and beauty for thousands of years. When the first zoo was established by Queen Hatshepsut 3,500 years ago, a giraffe was transported 1,500 miles down the Nile River for the Queen's zoo. In 1827, when a giraffe was placed on public display for the first time in Paris, it nearly caused a riot. The arrival of the giraffe also started a fashion frenzy, influencing hairstyles, clothing, and accessories. It's the giraffe's speed, not its height, that gave it its name. "Giraffe" comes from the Arab word xirapha (zee-RAF-ah), which means "the one that walks very fast". There is only 1 species of giraffe.
GIFAFFE'S RELATIVES: The rare okapi is an animal confined to a small region within the Congo Basin and only discovered early this century. This animal is the rainforest ancestor of the giraffe.
WHERE IT LIVES: Wherever there are trees in the Sahara. Eliminated from most of West African and southern Kalahari range but still reasonably common even outside wildlife preserves.
WHERE TO SEE IT: Many different parts of eastern Africa. This animal is most approachable along well traveled roads in the popular national parks of Africa.
PREDATORS: 50 to 75% of all giraffe calves fall prey to lions and spotted hyenas during the first few months of life. As adults giraffe's are too big to be regular prey. Mother's will stand over and defend her calf against lions, which run the risk of being kicked to death if they get within striking distance.
ACTIVITY: Females spend just over half a 24 hour day browsing. Males somewhat less (43%). Nights are spent Iying down resting, especially hours after dark and before dawn. Bulls spend about 22% of the 24 hours walking, compared to 13% for cows. Males walk more in search of cows to mate with.
SOCIAL/MATING SYSTEM: The giraffe is very sociable and lives in large open herds. Giraffe's may be in a herd composed of all males, all females, females and young, or of both sexes and all ages or all alone if it is a mature bull or a cow guarding a new calf. There are no leaders. Giraffe's spend most of their time feeding independently between variably spaced trees With their size, giraffe's can be appart for large periods of time because it is unnecessary for them to bunch together for mutual security.
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