At the height of everything is a beautiful view
At The Height of Beauty, If you think you are tall better try to feed a giraffe at the Uganda Wildlife Educational Centre in Entebbe, a small town on the shores of Uganda’s largest lake, Victoria. Welcoming you is a sculpture of two giraffes necking. But what is this giraffe all about? Let’s delve into the details, just a little. The Genotype Nature. According to scientists, the giraffe is a large African-hoofed mammal belonging to the Giraffa genus. It is the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant on Earth. Originally believed to with nine subspecies, researchers have proposed to divide them into up to
eight extant species due to new research into their mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, as well as morphological measurements. With several subspecies now extinct, we do well to cherish and preserve the few that are left. A visit to this home goes a long way in conserving the giraffe, besides other wild animals.
Its main distinguishing characteristics are its extremely long neck and legs, its horn-
like ossicones, and their spotted coat patterns. Its scattered range extends from Chad in the north to South Africa in the south, and from Niger in the west to Somalia in the east. Giraffes usually inhabit savannahs and woodlands. Their food source is leaves, fruits, and flowers of woody plants, primarily acacia species, which they browse at heights most other herbivores cannot reach. Its Predators. Its main predators are lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, and African wild dogs. Foremost of these is the lion. In some populations, lions are responsible for the death of more than half of the giraffe calves in their first year. They are generally less vulnerable to hyenas, cheetahs, and crocodiles.
Their Social Life.
Giraffes live in herds of related females and their offspring or bachelor herds of unrelated adult males, but are gregarious and may gather in large aggregations. Males establish social hierarchies through “necking”, combat bouts where the neck is used as a
weapon. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, dominant males gain mating access to females, which bear sole responsibility for raising the young, a noble goal, considering that they are vulnerable to extinction.
The types of Giraffes.
Nature has blessed us with several types of this amazing creatures. Among them are the Kordofan giraffe, the Nubian giraffe, the West African giraffe, the reticulated giraffe, the Masai giraffe, the Angolan giraffe, the South African giraffe, and my all-time favourite, the Rothschild giraffe, owing to its white legs that look like they are clad in white stockings. Such elegance! Let’s consider how elegantly they move about vast fields.
There are only two gaits for the giraffe: walking and galloping. Walking is done by moving the legs on one side of the body, and then doing the same on the other side. When galloping, the hind legs move around the front legs before the latter move forward, and the tail will curl up. The movements of the head and neck provide balance and control momentum while galloping. The giraffe can reach a sprint speed of up to 60 km/h and can sustain 50 km/h for several kilometres. At The Height of Beauty, Giraffes would probably not be competent swimmers as their long legs would be highly cumbersome in the water, although they might be able to float. When swimming, the thorax would be weighed down by the front legs, making it difficult for the animal to move its neck and legs in harmony or keep its head above the water’s surface.
A giraffe rests by lying with its body on top of its folded legs. To lie down, the animal kneels on its front legs and then lowers the rest of its body. To get back up, it first gets on its front knees and positions its backside on its hind legs. It then pulls up the backside upwards and the front legs stand straight up again. At each stage, the animal swings its head for balance. If the giraffe wants to reach down to drink, it either spreads its front legs or bends its knees. Studies in captivity found the giraffe sleeps intermittently for around 4 to 6 hours daily, mostly at night. It usually sleeps lying down; however, standing sleep has been recorded, particularly in older individuals. Intermittent short “deep sleep” phases while lying are characterized by the giraffe bending its neck backwards and resting its head on the hip or thigh, a position believed to indicate paradoxical sleep.
Feeding. At The Height of Beauty
During the wet season, food is abundant and giraffes are more spread out, while during the dry season, they gather around the remaining evergreen trees and bushes. Mothers tend to feed in open areas, presumably to make it easier to detect predators, although this may reduce their feeding efficiency. As a ruminant, the giraffe first chews its food, then swallows it for processing, and then visibly passes the half-digested cud up the neck and back into the mouth to chew again. The giraffe requires less food than many other herbivores because the foliage it eats has more concentrated nutrients and it has a more efficient digestive system. At The Height of Beauty, the animal’s faecal matter comes in the form of small pellets. When it has access to water, a giraffe will go no more than three days without drinking. Giraffes have a great effect on the trees that they feed on, delaying the growth of young trees for some years and giving “waistlines” to too-tall trees. Feeding is at its highest during the first and last hours of the daytime. Between these hours, giraffes mostly stand and ruminate. Rumination is the dominant activity during the night when it is mostly done lying down.