While southern populations are increasing in abundance, northern populations have been decreasing due to habitat degradation and poaching. For example, poaching and armed conflict across the range of the Reticulated Giraffe in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya has reduced numbers to perhaps fewer than 5,000 individuals ( Giraffe Conservation Foundation pers. obs., Fennessy 2007).
A giraffe census and DNA collection expedition was recently conducted in Zambia. Planning for addition expeditions to Botswana and Cameroon is underway. Two members of the IGWG attended a Population and Habitat Viability Assessment for the small remaining West African giraffe subspecies, Giraffa camelopardalis peralta, in Niger.
The Giraffe formerly occurred in arid and dry-savanna zones of sub-Saharan Africa, wherever trees occur. Today, its range has contracted markedly with the expansion of human populations, especially in West Africa.
The large size of the Giraffe means that it must spend a great deal of time eating which it tends to do the most during the more tolerable heat of the morning and evening. During the hot midday sun, Giraffes rest in more shaded regions where they (like a number of their relatives) regurgitate their food known as cud, before then consuming it again. Small herds comprised of a number of females and their young spend both the day and night together to protect their offspring from predators, but male Giraffes are much more solitary often roaming over large areas in search of a fertile female.
Giraffes breed year round and after finding a female to mate with, the male Giraffe will resume his solitary ways. After a gestation period that lasts for 15 months, the female Giraffe gives birth to a single infant (twins are rare) that already stands at two meters tall and has it's unique markings.
Giraffes can go for days without water. In order to drink water, the giraffe has to spread its front legs and bend its long neck to the water. This is a dangerous position for the giraffe since it can't see its enemies and can't get a fast start running.
The distinctive spots that cover a giraffe’s fur act as a good camouflage to protect the giraffe from predators. When the giraffe stands in front of trees and bushes the light and dark colouring of its fur blends in with the shadows and sunlight.
Giraffes are ruminants. This means that they have more than one stomach. In fact, giraffes have four stomachs, the extra stomachs assisting with digesting food.
These herding mammals can see their enemies (like lions) from long distances. Giraffes can run up to 35 mph (56 kph) for short bursts.
Giraffes are the world's tallest animal. Their first experience of life is a two metre drop to the ground, because female giraffes give birth standing up. For the first few weeks, the calf remains hidden in the shade and the mother returns to it from her foraging trips.