The longest day of the year is June 21*, and is now dedicated to the longest-necked animal in the world!
June 21st is World Giraffe Day. And as such, we want to do our part by spreading knowledge and awareness of this amazing animal – because we believe that action always starts with awareness!
Here are 21 facts you may not know about giraffes:
- For a long time, people called the giraffe a camel-leopard, believing it was a combination of a camel and a leopard! That’s where the giraffe’s species name camelopardalis comes from.
- There are 9 giraffe subspecies: Angolan, Kordofan, Nubian, South African or Cape, West African or Nigerian, Reticulated or Somali, Rothschild, Thornicroft, and Masai.
- Giraffe coat colors vary from light tan to practically black. The differences occur due to what the giraffes eat and where they live. Each individual giraffe’s markings are as individual as our fingerprints!
- Giraffes are not dependent on drinking water, they stay hydrated through condensation and food.
- 200 endangered West African Giraffes exist today. In 2008 was listed on the IUCN RED List as ‘endangered’.
- Giraffes only need 5 to 30 minutes of sleep in a 24-hour period! They often achieve that in quick naps that may last only a minute or two at a time.
- The closest relative to the giraffe is the okapi, which has a much shorter neck relative to body size.
- It has been estimated that fewer than 5,000 Reticulated Giraffes remain in the wild, from an estimated 28,000 as recently as the late 1990s! The Reticulated Giraffe is one of the more common captive giraffes with approximately 450 kept in zoos across the world.
- Giraffes can live to be 25 years old, and even older in captivity!
- Once mature, the defensive kick of an adult giraffe is enough to seriously damage even the most determined predator, even lions have succumbed to the fierceness of the giraffe’s soup bowl size hooves.
- The average gestation period for giraffe is approximately 15 months (453-464 days)!
- Giraffes give birth standing up, requiring the newborn to fall 6.5 feet (2 meters) to the ground! A newborn can stand up and run within an hour of being born!
- A giraffe’s tongue is 18-21 inches long!
- Even with its long neck, the giraffe has the same number of vertebrae in its neck as humans do, which is 7.
- A giraffe’s head is 2m (7ft) away from it’s heart, which makes for a very difficult challenge to pump blood to the brain! They have a relatively small heart yet extremely high blood pressure (that’s twice the blood pressure of humans), and a heart beat up to 170 times per minute (also twice as much as humans).
- The patches on a giraffe’s body, not only act as camouflage, but also as a thermal window releasing heat from the body.
- Giraffes have legs about 6 feet long, allowing them to run 35mph for short distances!
- Giraffes may eat up to 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of food per day. They spend most of their day eating, because they get just a few leaves in each bite.
- Giraffes favorite food, acacia trees, have long thorns that deter most animals — but not giraffes. Their 18-inch (46-centimeter) tongues can reach around the thorns, and their thick, sticky saliva coats any thorns they might swallow.
- There are fewer than 1,500 Thornicroft Giraffes in the wild, and none in captivity.
- There are almost no Nubian Giraffes in captivity, and fewer than 250 in the wild.
How you can get involved in honor of World Giraffe Day:
- Share what you know to inspire others to get involved in the plight of the giraffe by sharing this blog post on social media using the links at the bottom of this post!
- Attend an event in your area. Zoos and parks like Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and North Carolina Zoo are holding fun, interactive and educational activities on the day!
- Donate to organizations like Giraffe Conservation Foundation, WWF, Defenders of Wildlife and African Wildlife Foundation.
- Symbolically adopt a giraffe. Your adoption will help protect giraffes and their habitat.
- Visit a zoo. Did you know zoos play an integral role in wildlife conservation, education and research!