Reticulated Giraffes

Reticulated Giraffes

Many people know reticulated giraffes from zoos where this species can be found relatively often. Yet scientifically a lot is not known yet. Already the question whether it is a species or “only” a subspecies is not fully agreed upon. Traditionally giraffes are considered to be one species with nine subspecies with the reticulated giraffe being one of them. An extensive genetic analysis of the Senckenberg Institute delivered the result that giraffes have to be evaluated anew. Four different species were recognized, of which one is the reticulated giraffe.

 

For the reticulated giraffe this means that she is not one of about 100.000 giraffes but an own species with only about 8.700 animals left in the wild, which is listed as critically endangered. Their habitat is Northern Kenya, Southern Ethiopia and Somalia – even this is not correct anymore as we will realize in the next time.

 

Among the giraffes the reticulated giraffe optically differs more from the others than other kinds. The fur is also rather crème-colored but due to the large brown spots it appears as if they were brown with a white net as frame, while other giraffes seem to be light with dark spots. Any attentive zoo visitor can recognize that all giraffes have an individual pattern and no animal is equal to another one.

 

Male reticulated giraffes can grow up to six meters height and weigh 900 kg – and this as mere vegetarians. One giraffe requires about 50-60 kg food per day, which is the reason why giraffes are wandering around that much. Giraffes spend about half of their day with eating. Also in relation to other large animals giraffes have a very large heart that weighs 12 kg alone.

 

A widely known fact is that the long neck is held by seven vertebrae, the same number as humans have. Interesting are the ossicones. The males in the wild often have them blank and not covered with fur as they use them for fights against rivals. In contrast to females who merge together with other females and their offspring, bulls are roaming the savannah alone and do not accept other males near them. Only younger bulls who just left their moms join other juvenile bulls for a bachelor group.

 

Offspring is not a big problem for reticulated giraffes. The cow gives birth to a baby after gestation period of fifteen months. It does not take long until she is ready to mate again, so that the time between two births is about one and a half years. Grown up giraffes can defend themselves very well. Lions are the biggest threat but they put their own lives at risk when attacking a giraffe due to their long and powerful legs. The juveniles are much more endangered and can be killed by mid-size carnivores like cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs as well. Only every second giraffe reaches the maturity age. Much more dangerous for the species are human beings though by restricting the habitat of the animals and hunting them.

Olaf Goldbecker