Standing tall in the face of adversity
Today is international giraffe day.
We won’t see many munching leaves off the high branches on The Strand – in fact the closest giraffes to Tauranga is a bachelor herd of five over the Kaimai Range at Hamilton Zoo,
Why do we love giraffes?
Well, they’re so damned tall, elegant but at the same time clumsy and goofy. The average male is six metres high, half the height being neck - the tallest mammal on the planet. They dwarf the next tallest, the male elephant at just 3.5m.
Did you know that distinctive pattern is different for every giraffe – no giraffe has ever had, has or will have the same pattern.
Giraffe’s spend their lives standing up – they sleep standing up and give birth standing up. So every giraffe’s first experience of the world is being dropped from a great height on your head.
Those legs, which on their own are taller than most humans, can get the giraffe over the tundra at a surprisingly quick 56km/h, albeit for a short distance.
Beautiful and adorable but giraffe’s wouldn’t make good pets – functionally impossible and downright cruel.
And it would about $300O a year to feed the herbivores. So if you are enamored with giraffes it might be better idea to buy a hectare on Serengeti.
There’s a misconception that giraffes have two hearts – they don’t. Their one heart is a huge pump though to get the blood surging to the head and through the legs.
There’s another misconception that the giraffe is tall so it can forage on the high branches of trees – eat vegetation not accessible to other animals and so ensuring survival. But in a lot of places they don’t bother, even when food is scarce.
It may have more to do with sex – long necks evolved in males as a way of competing for females. They fight for females by necking – standing side by side and swinging the backs of their heads into each others ribs and legs. Males with the longest necks tend to win. And female giraffes seem to prefer longer necks.
So on the shortest day we celebrate the longest necks. There are just 110,000 of the much-loved animals lolloping around today, and so today is a chance to raise support, create awareness and shed light on the challenges giraffe face in the wild.