Status: Not Threatened (in Namibia – population has doubled lately)
This orphaned giraffe is in northern Kenya nuzzling a caregiver at Sarara Camp, but doesn’t this image say it all about the giraffe? What love! Samburu cattle herders found the abandoned calf and alerted Sarara, known for raising orphaned animals and returning them to their habitat. The young giraffe now lives with a wild herd. (National Geographic)
Apologies for the poor quality of the image but it’s such a well-explained anatomical picture that I’m using it for illustration.
Even National Geographic and its scientists have not been able to definitively explain the giraffe’s long neck. I generally find common sense and the obvious to the most accurate, so I am going with the food at the top of the trees. Some scientists think it could be for watching for predators, for males to bash each other with the head for domination (which is surprisingly nasty, if you’ve ever seen it on tv), or for sexual selection. All possible.
Its long neck is only the beginning of the giraffe’s incredible anatomy. Its legs are the longest of any animal, its tongue can extend over a foot and half and can strip bare an acacia stem so thorny you wouldn’t want to grab it with your bare hand –
– and then there are its demure long eyelashes – even visible from behind – any woman would die for. Its heart, pumps blood over a greater vertical span than any other land mammal and can be more than two feet long.
Undoubtedly linked to the giraffe’s long neck is its eerie silence. Giraffes are social and get together in groups and then dissolve, so it would seem they have to communicate somehow, yet they almost never make a sound and don’t communicate with each other using any kind of signaling audible to human ears. Some researchers wonder if giraffes emit low-frequency infrasound to communicate with each other over long distances like elephants, but the evidence is inconclusive.
I almost like it better that the giraffe questions remain unanswerable. I cling to my childhood first impressions of them in nursery books, and find them to be one of the most lovable, sometimes comical, creatures on earth.