THE GIRAFFE

  The giraffe is the tallest animal to walk on Earth in modern times – its height is on average 5 meters, the neck alone can reach 2 meters! A very funny fact is that a giraffe has fewer bones in its neck than a tiny sparrow!!! You would think that it is just the opposite but the giraffe has only 7 vertebrae in its neck and they are much longer than the sparrow’s. The giraffe has very long legs and a spotted fur pattern which resembles that of a leopard. The brown spots help this beautiful animal, in spite of its height, to blend with the trees and to become less obvious for predators. The tall mammal‘s habitat is the continent of Africa; it prefers the savannas and grasslands. Even if there is not enough food, it is thanks to its long neck that the giraffe can reach the highest branches of the acacia trees. It has a very strong tongue that is able to pull leaves and twigs from the trees with ease. A grown-up giraffe eats around 45 kg of food a day. Giraffes have more than one stomach – they are ruminants. This means that they chew their food, swallow it and it goes into a special part of the stomach where it gets partially digested. After that the food returns back in the mouth of the animal to be chewed on again. This is a very efficient way for all the hard leaves and twigs to get digested, providing as many calories as possible. This process happens between two feeding occasions or when the giraffe lies down. Talking about lying down and sleeping, giraffes sleep only  a couple of hours a day and they can even sleep for a short period of time standing up!!

  A baby giraffe weighs about 70 kg and is about 1,8 m tall when it is born. This is the same height as a grown-up man!! The mother gives birth standing up and, even though the baby falls onto the ground from almost 2-meter height, it does not get hurt. The newborn stays with the mother, which takes care of it and protects it until the baby is ready to be independent. Very often groups are formed; they consist of a number of mothers and their calves. This way the mothers can look after each other’s babies so they can be sure that the youngsters are safe and free from danger!!

GALLERY

GLOSSARY

habitat – the natural home of an animal or a plant

mammal – a warm-blooded animal, the mothers produce milk so they can feed their babies when they are born; dogs, cats, horses but also humans are just some of the animals who belong to this group

vertebra, pl. vertebrae – any of the bones of the spinal column

predator – an animal that lives by capturing and eating other animals

savanna or savannah –  a large flat area of land with grass and very few trees especially in Africa and South America

twig – a small branch (of a tree)

to digest – to process, break down, decompose

partially – not fully, to a certain extent

calf – the young of some animals, such as cows, but also elephants and whales

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