• Scientific name: Giraffa camelopardalis
  • IUCN status: Conservation dependent
  • Habitat: Sub-Saharan Africa – open grassland with scattered trees
  • Diet: Herbivore – mainly leaves

Male giraffes are the world’s tallest animals, attaining nearly 6m in height and weighing up to 1900kg. Their height enables them to reach juicy acacia and myrrh leaves that are too high for other browsing wildlife such as antelope and elephants. They also have a modified upper neck joint, allowing them to stretch their head upwards, and a tough 45cm tongue for tackling the thorniest of high branches. When stretching down to eat and drink, giraffes have to spread their front legs very wide.

Although giraffes have adapted to coping with the thorns of the acacia tree, this tough plant has developed other ways to make it harder for browsing animals to enjoy its leaves. Some species have hollow thorns that are colonised by ants, which attack any animal looking for a tasty meal.

Keeper’s Secret

Giraffes spend much of their day feeding. Their tongue is hyperactive selecting the tree leaves giraffes feed on. In between feeds the giraffe like to rest its tongue by hanging it out of the side of its mouth.

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