Copyright 2021 - Linda L. Rigsbee
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A Young Adult Literary Coloring Book that delivers some interesting and surprising information about giraffes.
While sculpting a giraffe, I did some research and discovered some unusual things that I didn't know about giraffes. I had to visit a lot of sites to find this information, so I decided to share my research in one book. I chose coloring book format so that the reader could ponder the information while coloring.
I sketch, sculpt, carve, paint, sew and dabble in other arts, but my passion is writing. I often combine my artistic skills with my writing skills. I did all the research and writing in this book and drew all the pictures.
Linda L Rigsbee
Author, Artisan & Publisher
HomeSpun Literature Publishing
14409 McDaniel Rd
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Early giraffes didn't have a long neck.
The giraffe is believed to have evolved from the samotherium or Palaeotragus, a species that lived in the Miocene period, about 25 million years ago. Samotheriums were ungulates (hoofed animals) that lived in Africa and Eurasia. The first giraffe may have been the Bohlinia, which lived 5 million years ago.
The closest living relative to the giraffe is the okapi, which lives only in the rain forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa. It is the only animal living today that has ossicones, a kind of horn described later in this book. The okapi doesn't have a long neck, but it does share some other features with the giraffe.
Spots on each giraffe are different.
The ICUN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) recognizes only one species of giraffe and acknowledges 9 sub-speces. Each sub-species has a different arrangement of spots. Even within sub-species, the spots on individual giraffes vary. Like fingerprints on a human, no two giraffe spot arrangements are the same.
The recognized sub-species are Masai, Kordofan, Reticulated, Angolan, Nubian, Southern, Western, Thornicroft's and Rothschild. Even when their foraging areas mingle, these different types do not normally crossbreed in the wild.
Giraffe populations are on the decline due to habitat loss, climate change, poaching and human conflict. Giraffe numbers in each species have declined by 40 to 95% in the last three decades.
A group of giraffes is called a tower.
A group of giraffes can be called a tower or a herd. A baby is called a calf, a female is called a cow and a male is called a bull.
Giraffe natural habitat is only in the continent of Africa. The first giraffe transported to another country happened in 1826. A female nubian giraffe calf called Zarafa was captured near Sennar, Sudan by Arab hunters and used as a diplomatic gift between Egypt and France.
Many zoos have at least one giraffe. For many years, most of what we knew about giraffes was learned from animals in captivity. As you can imagine, life is much different for a giraffe in its natural habitat. We are still learning about giraffes in the wild.
One thing we have learned is that giraffes have become extinct in 8 of the African countries where they once lived. This is partly due to loss of habitat because of farming, and partly due to poaching.
We know that giraffes are social animals. Cows live together in groups of 15 to 20 along with some young males. Male calves stay with their mothers until they are about 15 months old and then they go live with groups of males. A female calf will usually stay with her mother until she is about 15 months but might leave to join another tower when she is 18 months old. She will usually stay in the same area where she grew up.
This map of the African continent and a list of countries in the mainland of Africa might help in understanding where these animals live. Africa includes some islands, such as the Canary Islands and Madagascar, but giraffes do not live on the islands.
The Masai (or Maasai) is also called the Kilimanjaro giraffe. It is the largest species. It has irregular, jagged, star-like blotches that extend to the hooves. The bulls usually have a median forehead lump.
There are about 35,000 Masai giraffes left in the wild. Their numbers have declined by 50% in the last 30 years due to loss of habitat and poaching.
The Masai is native to Eastern Africa and can be found in central and southern Kenya and Tanzania.
The Kordofan giraffe has the smallest spots. The spots are pale and irregular. There are no markings on the lower legs.
There are less than 2,000 Kordofan Giraffes left. Their population has declined by 40% over the last 30 years due to poaching and armed conflicts in its habitat. It is hunted for its meat and hide.
The Kordofan giraffe lives in sparsely populated areas of southern Chad, northern Cameroon, the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the southwest region of Sudan and the Central African Republic.
The Nubian giraffe has large 4-sided chestnut brown spots that do not continue below the knees. The spots are surrounded by creamy white.
The Nubian giraffe is on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered. Its numbers have declined by 95% in the last 30 years. There are now only 2,645 left in the wild. They have become extinct in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt and Eritrea, where it once lived.
The Nubian giraffe can still be found in eastern South Sudan and southwestern Ethiopia as well as isolated areas in Uganda and Kenya.
West African Giraffe
The West African Giraffe, also called the Nigerian giraffe, has large tan regular spots. It has the lightest coloring of the giraffe subspecies.
There are only 600 West African Giraffes left in the world. In 1996, it was almost extinct, being down to 49 individuals. It has been upgraded from critically endangered to vulnerable.
Once common in Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal, they now live only in a small part of Niger.
Also called the Baringo or Ugandan giraffe, the Rothschild's giraffe has large dark brown spots that do not extend down its legs. It has creamy white lower legs with no markings.
Now considered one of the most endangered species of giraffes, the Rothschild's giraffe numbers are down to 1,669. They were once common in southern Sudan, Uganda and Kenya but now live on reserves in Uganda and Kenya.
Also called the Somali giraffe, the Reticulated giraffe has large dark chestnut-colored geometric spots that are divided by fine white lines. The spots may continue down the legs.
There are about 8,500 Reticulated giraffes in the wild. It is the most common giraffe species seen in zoos and it is on the endangered list.
Native to the Horn of Africa, the Reticulated giraffe lives in Somalia, Northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia.
South African Giraffe
The Southern giraffe is also known as the Two-horned giraffe or Cape giraffe. It has dark blotchy star-shaped spots that extend all the way down its legs. The spots are on a light tan background.
There are an estimated 37,000 South African Giraffes in the wild. Do to conservation efforts, they have increased over 150% in the last three decades, but they are still on the vulnerable list.
The South African giraffe can be found in southern and eastern Angola, northern Botswana, southern Mozambique, northern South Africa, south-western Zambia, and parts of Zimbabwe.
The Angolan giraffe, or Namibian giraffe, has large uneven and notched light-colored spots that go all the way down the legs. It has a white ear patch.
Due mostly to human conflict, which resulted in loss of habitat for the giraffe in Angola and illegal hunting for food, the Angolan giraffe population in Angola has plummeted to about 50. Total population is estimated at 13,000.
Today, Angolan giraffes live in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Thornicroft's Giraffe is also called the Rhodesian giraffe. It has large dark brown ragged, leaf-shaped spots.
An estimated 550 of these giraffes are still alive. They live only in the South Luangwa Valley of eastern Zambia.
The giraffe is the tallest animal on Earth.
When it is born, a giraffe is already six feet tall. It will grow to be 14 to 20 feet tall, depending on the individual and gender. Masai Giraffe bulls can be 20 feet tall and weigh over 4,000 pounds. Cows are about 16 feet tall and can weigh up to 2700 pounds.
The tallest recorded giraffe is 18 ft 6 inches and lives in a zoo in Australia. Compare that to the tallest recorded elephant which is 13 feet tall.
A giraffe's legs are about 6 feet tall. The average human male is 5 ft 9 inches tall. He could probably stand upright and walk under the belly of a giraffe!
Female giraffes mature at about 4 years old. They carry their babies for 15 months and give birth standing up. When it is born, the baby giraffe falls about six feet to the ground.
The tops of the trees often provide the most nutrients. Being so tall, the giraffe doesn't compete with any other animals for that nutritious food! The trees benefit too, because that's where the blooms are and giraffes become pollinators, going from one tree to the next. How cool is that?
A giraffe can eat 75 pounds of leaves and twigs a day. Their favorite food is the leaves from the acacia tree.
A Giraffe has only 7 vertebrae.
A Giraffe has the same number of vertebrae as a human, but the average human's neck is only 4-5 inches long compared to the 6-foot length of a giraffe neck. Each giraffe vertebra is over 10 inches long.
The giraffe uses its long neck to browse in the tops of trees.
With such a long neck, the giraffe heart has to pump hard to make sure enough blood gets to the brain. Giraffes have blood pressure twice that of humans.
To protect the giraffe’s brain from sudden changes in blood pressure when it lowers its head to drink, it has valves to stop the back-flow of blood and elastic-walled vessels that dilate and constrict to manage flow.
Scientists used to think that a giraffe had a huge heart, but research has shown that the heart is small in relation to the size of the giraffe. It has an extremely thick left ventricle wall muscle.
With all that pressure, the brain would have problems when it lowered its head, but they have valves and elastic-walled blood vessels that dilate and constrict to manage blood flow. This is a pressure regulatory system called rete mirabile.
The Giraffe has an 18-inch tongue.
Giraffes like acacia tree leaves, but the tree has big thorns. The Giraffe has thick lips and sticky saliva to protect it from the thorns. The tongue is dexterous and 18 inches long and has thickened papillae (small lumps on the tongue) to protect it. The tongue is blueish-gray on the end and used with the mouth to strip the tree leaves around the thorns. It is thought that the dark color of the tongue protects it from the sun.
Giraffes are intelligent and have excellent eyesight. That comes in handy when your head is in the treetops.
A giraffe can run 38 mph.
With legs six feet long, the giraffe has the longest stride of any land mammal. They have a maximum speed of 38 mph in a sprint. That's about 10 mph faster than a human can run.
Horses walk with a left, left, right, right gait and switch to left, right, left, right when they trot or gallop. The giraffe doesn't change gaits when it runs. Both legs on the left side move and then both on the right side.
Giraffes appear to run in slow motion. That's because of the distance a stimulus must travel from the brain to the muscle. While the response is slow to the legs, having a 6-foot stride makes up for it.
Both male and female giraffes have ossicones.
Ossicones are the horn-like growths on top of the Giraffe's head. A giraffe is born with ossicones, but they lie flat and are soft cartilage and not attached to the skull. By the time they are 4-7 years old, the ossicones have ossified (hardened to bone) and attached to the skull. Ossicones are permanently covered with skin and fur.
Some giraffes have a third ossicone in the middle of their forehead. It might be a small hump or it might actually look like a third horn.
Male giraffe ossicones are usually bald on the top from fighting.
The only other living species today that has ossicones is the okapis.
Giraffes don't have to drink water every day.
Giraffes get most of the water they need from the moisture in leaves and the dew on them. Some giraffes get all their water this way.
A giraffe neck is too short to reach the ground, and because of the long vertebrae, it cannot bend its neck forward. It has to spread its legs in an awkward position or kneel to reach the water. It is hard to get back up from that position quickly if a predator finds them.
The spots on a giraffe help camouflage it, but they have another purpose as well. There is a large blood vessel around each spot and it branches under the surface of the spot. The giraffe can send blood through these vessels to release heat and cool the animal down.
Giraffes sleep standing up.
Giraffes sleep less than any other wild mammal – only about 30 minutes out of every 24 hours. They take short naps of up to five minutes at a time – usually standing up.
Because of their size and long legs, getting up quickly is difficult, and that could cost a giraffe its life if a lion came along. Giraffe calves sleep lying down – usually with their heads on their hindquarters – and they usually have another giraffe standing guard.
Giraffes sleep with their eyes half closed and sometimes one eye open. Their ears are erect to detect any sound that might mean danger.
Male giraffes use a method of fighting called necking.
Giraffes don't have territories. They go where the food and water is. When giraffe bulls fight, it is to decide who will be the leader of the herd, or tower.
When they spar, they stand side-by-side and wind their necks and heads against each other. This way, they can decide how strong the other giraffe is.
When they are necking, they swing their heads at each other. They aim their horns at the rump, flanks or neck of the other giraffe. They are strong and can hit hard enough to injure or even knock down the other giraffe. While their fights are violent, they rarely result in death.
Giraffes die of lightning strikes.
Because they are often the tallest object in a storm, giraffes are sometimes killed by lightning. There is no way a giraffe can defend itself against lightning, but it can fight predators.
Giraffes have feet 10-12 inches in diameter. Their strong legs and sharp hooves can injure and kill. They have been known to kick the head off a lion.
Other than lightning, giraffes are killed by lions, hyenas, leopards, wild dogs, crocodiles and humans. The giraffe can reach speeds of 38 mph, but lions can run 50 mph. A giraffe could still outrun a lion, though. Lions can only run that fast in short sprints, so they sneak up on their prey until they are close. Hyenas can run 40 mph, wild dogs 44 mph, and leopards 36 mph. Crocodiles lunge from the water while the giraffe is sprawled out to drink.
In some areas, more than half of the giraffe calves don't survive the first year of their lives. They can stand up and walk about an hour after they are born. Cows stand over their young to protect them, but when predators work in teams, that's hard to do. Many calves are killed in the first few months of their lives. If they survive to adults, they have a lifespan of about 25 years.
Giraffe vision relies mainly on their height. Their height allows giraffes a continual visual contact while at great distances from their herd. The acute eyesight of giraffes can spot predators at a distance so they can prepare to defend themselves. Individuals within a herd may scatter widely across the grassland in search of good food or drink, and only cluster together at good food trees or if threatened.
Giraffes may make infrasonic sounds.
Scientists used to think that giraffes didn't make sounds because their long necks wouldn't allow them to get enough wind through their vocal cords to make sound. Studies have shown that they do make sounds. In fact, there is some evidence to indicate that they may communicate with each other using infrasonic sound. Infrasonic sounds are sounds that are below the range that humans can hear.
Cows sometimes use a low growl or hiss to warn their babies when they venture too far away or there is danger nearby. They also have a soft bellow or flutelike whistle when they are trying to locate their calf. A calf may answer with a bleating or mewing sound.
Giraffes grunt or snort as an alarm to other giraffes when they see predators. Giraffes in a zoo have been recorded making a moaning sound. Male giraffes also make a coughing sound when courting a cow.
Giraffes have feathered dentists.
Ox Pecker birds are often found on giraffes in the wild. They pick food from between the teeth and ticks and bugs from the giraffe's fur.
Giraffes have a strong odor caused by their defense system. The fur is full of antibiotics and smelly chemicals that repel parasites. This could be because of the acacia leaves they eat. Old male giraffes are sometimes nicknamed stink bulls.
I hope this book has piqued your interest enough to encourage further research. To get a copy, click on the purple button below.