Male giraffes can grow to be 18 feet tall (that's more than 3 times the height of the average man), and weigh in at 2500 lbs. A male giraffe is called a bull and will live about 14 years.
Female giraffes can reach 14-15 feet tall and weigh 1600 lbs. A female giraffe is called a cow. Females live about 20 years.
A baby giraffe is called a calf. A newborn calf is about 6 feet tall and weighs 125-150 lbs.
Gestation & Birth
A mother giraffe has an average gestation of 14.5 months. When the calf is born it will stand and nurse within the first hour of its life. Within 10 hours a newborn giraffe is able to run fast enough to keep up with the herd.
Photo: Ralph Daily, Creative Commons
Giraffes have a highly flexible prehensile tongue that they use to strip leaves from vegetation. The dark color of their tongue protects it from the African sun.
Photo: Bilby, Creative Commons
Giraffe "horns" are special structures called ossicones. They are formed from ossified cartilage covered in skin and fur. Ossicones are flat when a giraffe is born. Within a few days of birth they will stand upright and become rigid.
Photo: Bjorn Christian Torrissen, Creative Commons
Acacia leaves and shoots make up the greater part of a giraffe's diet. They use their long tongues to wrap branches and slide the leaves off the tree. Giraffes get much of the water they need from browsing and can tolerate long stretches without drinking liquid water if fresh browse is available.
Photo: Roland H., Creative Commons
In 1998 the total population of giraffes in the wild was estimated at 140,000 (East, 1999). Recent population estimates show that giraffes have faced a steep decline, with fewer than 80,000 individuals remaining (Fennessy, 2013).
On April 19, 2017 an Endangered Species Act petition was submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Protection under the Endangered Species Act could prevent giraffe pelts and parts being imported as hunting trophies, and slow the trade of giraffe bone and hair used in jewelry, ceremonial items, and eastern medicines.
Currently, there is one species and nine subspecies of giraffes recognized by the scientific community. Recent genetic discoveries may lead to future reclassification of giraffes into multiple species, raising important questions about conservation and protection of the most imperiled species of the giraffa genus.
Dramatic declines in wild giraffe populations is a very real threat to this iconic species. With populations already diminished, giraffes lack resilience to the complex web of natural and anthropogenic threats they face.