Hello from Little 5!

The Kruger National Park in South Africa is home to an amazing array of fauna and flora, spread through 7 distinct ecozones, in over 20 million hectares of natural wilderness. Just for the record here are the total species numbers:

  • Mammals – 148
  • Birds – 500+
  • Fish – 53
  • Trees – 336
  • Grasses – 75
  • Reptiles – 114
  • Amphibians – 35

We won’t be describing all of these in detail but certainly will describe the most interesting and iconic. For our first post, we have chosen a mammal. The tallest animal in the world.

The Giraffe – Giraffa camelopardalis

With males reaching up to 5.5 meters tall and weighing in at close to 2 tons, our Giraffe is a lot of animal!

It is also the only mammal in the world that has horns present in the embryo. Formed of cartilage and unattached to the skull, they lie flat and present no obstacle to birth. They only attach to the skull at 4 1/2 years in males and 7 years in females. Males have more than 1 pair of horns. Knobs on the skull, particularly at the base of the skull, over the eyes and on the nose, continue to grow with the male’s head eventually becoming a massive club.

It is quite easy to sex a giraffe at a distance by looking at the horns. Females have tufts of hair at the top of the horn and males don’t.

Being so tall means the Giraffe has access to a browsing range 2-3 meters higher than any other large browser. Only the elephant can get close to this.

It has a specially modified head and neck joint that allows the animal to tilt its head vertically and in so doing enables it to browse at nearly 6 meters off the ground. Males and females have different browsing strategies, with the cows concentrating on regenerating trees at around 2 meters.

This is another way to tell from a distance what sex the animal is – if it’s browsing high then it’s male, if low then female.