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Location, Habitat and Diet

Giraffes live in small groups in parts of Africa where food is adequate, south of the Saharan Desert. The habitat of giraffes is the open plains of the African savanna where trees are present. Giraffes prefer leaves from acacia trees. Acacia trees have thorns that keep most animals away; however, giraffes' long tongues can maneuver around the thorns to reach the leaves. They will also eat leaves of other trees if necessary.


Size and Description

Giraffes are easy to identify with their long necks, skinny legs and distinctive spotted markings. They are the tallest mammals on earth. The approximate weight of giraffes is approximately 2,000 - 3,000 lbs for males; females weigh less than males. The approximate height is about 16 - 18 feet for males and about 14 - 16 feet for females.


Reproduction

Female giraffes become sexually mature around 3 or 4 years old. The gestation or pregnancy period for a female giraffe is about 14 - 15 months. A female giraffe will give birth to a calf that stands about 6 feet tall and weighs approximately 150 lbs.


Special Adaptations

Giraffes use their long necks to reach for leaves high in trees. They only have seven vertebrae in their necks, the same as humans. Their front legs are longer than their back legs, which also helps them to reach the treetops. Their uniquely-patterned coats camouflage them from predators. Their lips are tough to protect them against scratches from the acacia thorns. Like camels, giraffes can go for long periods of time without drinking water. This helps keep them safer because they must assume an awkward position in order to drink, which leaves them more vulnerable to predators.


Special Facts

Not many animals will attack adult giraffes, but young giraffes may be attacked by lions, leopards, hyenas and other predators.

Giraffes were at one time believed to be a combination of a camel and a leopard. The species name "camelopardalis" is derived from this mistake.

 
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    Classification
    Kingdom: Phylum: Order: Class: Family: Genus: Species: Animalia Chordata Mammalia Artiodactyla Giraffidae Giraffa camelopardalis
           
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