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Tallest Mammal

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If you have been following this series on the African wildlife Experience and what to expect in your African safari then here is another great stuff for you. Our plan this season was to feature on an informative yet interesting coverage on the Leopard, but a client named Cranston a photographer who had a wonderful time in Lake Nakuru and Amboseli national parks heightened us differently. Right now as I speak, I am in Kenya, a country that is perceived as; a wonderland of treasures, the cradle of mankind and the land of contrasts. The greatest wonder of the world is now on as I had told you earlier in the migration update and many visitors from all over the world are streaming to Maasai Mara to have the first hand glimpse. Am talking about, the wildebeest migration. I know you might be wondering why I have to say all this stuff instead of going directly to my point. Well! If I were a psychiatrist, I would have told you “……… this is important as well” of which it is. But my main point here is to prepare you on what to expect when in a safari.

If your expectation of seeing the big five or monster lizard or even some specific species of birds fail to circumstances, fear not! Kenya as I said offers a diversity of attraction. That’s why I developed this series so that you can know what Kenya in its diversity has to offer. This time I will tell you why and what’s interesting about the world’s tallest living mammal.

The giraffe is the world’s tallest terrestrial animal. It’s one of the most amazing animals especially because of the long neck that makes it sometimes cumbersome and prone to a couple of problems. We will see them as we proceed and you will be able to understand more. These African ruminant mammals, Giraffa Camelopardalis, live in open savannahs south of the Sahara and have only one family member, the Okapi. The reticulated giraffes are handsomely patterned in golden browns, with a coarsely netted (reticulated) pattern mainly quadrangular in shape. Males and females have stiff manes along their necks and both sexes have horn-like structures called ossicones on top of their heads between their ears. These ossicones are present at birth in the form of small knobs of cartilage covered with skin and hair which becomes bony nodules with age.

Giraffes are widely spread in Africa and Kenya in particular. Cranston will bear witness that it’s easy to spot, the three species of giraffes in this part of the world.

It amazes to know that giraffes despite being the tallest mammal have seven vertebrae in their neck, the same with man and most other mammals. Only that the vertebrae are much bigger. The tail measures up to one yard with a terminal tuft of stiff, black hair. They have long tongues that measure 18-21 inches long. The inner part of the tongue is pink in color, and then changes to a purplish-black color for the last 6 inches that are commonly visible. ……… I wish you see them browse on the acacias.

A quick look at the adaptations of the Giraffe

Giraffes have long legs and neck, long, tough, prehensile tongue, and leathery mouth for food gathering. Their coloration is protective. They are tall with good eyesight for watchfulness. Giraffes have high blood pressure (240/160) for pumping blood to the brain. Herds are small and loosely constructed of 5-15 individuals, consisting of one bull with females and young. Other bulls are solitary or in pairs.

Another interesting thing about the giraffe is that they usually sleep standing up for only 1-12 minutes. Going for a month without water is also possible as an adaptation to long drought periods in their native areas.

Giraffe is browsing ruminant that eats regularly throughout the day, they prefer young leaves and shoots at tops of acacia trees which sometimes ends up shaping the regularly visited trees. They prefer to drink regularly, but can go without water for several days and can run up to 35 mph. Predators are leopards (prey on young), lions, and man. Giraffes kick with their hooves and slam with their heads.

Off springs

Giraffes are non-seasonal breeders, usually producing one calf after a gestation period of 14-15 months. Newborn giraffe calves begin their lives by falling up to about 6 feet to the ground, and weight 87-107 lbs. They become sexually mature between 3 and 4 years of age and have a life span of about 25 years and up to 30 in captivity. Full body size is not reached until five years of age.

It is interesting to note that…

The carotid artery that carries blood from the heart to the head is thick, muscular and elastic, ballooning when the giraffe stoops to absorb increase in pressure. When the giraffe raises its head, a series of check valves in the inch-wide jugular vein prevents a sudden back flow from the head, emptying the brain. They are most vulnerable to predators when drinking or lying down. They may see red-orange, yellow-green, purple, green and blue as colors. Their scientific name means “camel-leopard-like one who walks swiftly.” Their spot patterns are as individual as fingerprints. They are among the very few mammals that cannot swim at all.

Head/shoulder length is approximately 13′ for the male. Shoulder height is 8-12′, overall height 15-19′ and Weight is 1,100-2,800 lbs.

Giraffe’s have a variety of sounds but they are rarely heard. They may grunt of snort when alarmed, females may whistle to call their young, and calves can bleat

There are more to learn and see in the giraffe especially the walking style but, I won’t tell you now until you make arrangements to see them. Almost every large park and reserve in Kenya has at least one species. But for you, I would recommend you take a safari to Samburu and see the most beautiful of the three and then proceed to Lake Nakuru and see the largest of the three yet the most endangered. From there you can voyage to Amboseli or Mara and take pleasure in the look of the Kenyan named Maasai giraffe. An extension to the coastal beaches of Kenya is fare as well…….

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