Rothschild Giraffe Animals & Plants

About the Rothschild Giraffe

Fota Wildlife Park is home to a herd of Rothschild Giraffe, one of the nine subspecies found in Africa. Tallest of the land mammals, the species is often referred to as the ‘watchtowers of the Serengeti’ as it helps to alert other animals to the presence of predators up to two kilometres away.

Giraffes have the longest tail of any land mammal, growing to about 2.4 metres long (8 ft) including the tuft on the end, while its blue/black tongue is 17 inches long and prehensile, allowing the giraffe to grip branches with it.

The Rothschild Giraffe is taller than all other subspecies - males growing to six metres in height and weighing over 2000kg - but the animal does not have horns; instead, it has cartilage structures unattached to its skull called ossicones that are flat at birth and stand within a few days.

Their coat is a distinct mix of dark patches that are broken up by bright, cream channels, though there are no markings on its lower legs - a trait that is unique to this sub species.

Habitat

Giraffes inhabit savannahs, grasslands and open woodlands across Africa but the Rothschild subspecies only exists in small numbers within protected areas in Kenya and northern Uganda. The animal is also known as the Baringo Giraffe, having once made its home around the Lake Baringo area of Kenya.

Wild Notes

A strict herbivore, the animal only eats leaves and buds from trees. Males can eat up to 80kg of leaves a day and the species has a chambered stomach to help with digestion.

Giraffes live in small herds with males and females (and their calves) existing separately outside of mating season. They can run at up to 56kph but can hardly jump and rely on a powerful kick to defend themselves when vulnerable.

Females give birth to a single calf after a gestation period of between 14 and 16 months. A mother often gives birth while standing, so a newborn's first experience of the world can be a two-metre drop. Half of young don’t survive beyond their initial first year in the wild.

 

Conservation

Exterminated from much of their former habitat, fewer than 700 hundred Rothschild Giraffes now exist in the wild in western Kenya and eastern Uganda because of the destruction of their habitat and farming developments in their native ranges. The animal was also hunted in the past, with its tail hairs used in jewellery while its hides were used to make water buckets.

Did you know?

Giraffes sleep standing up - but only for five minutes at a time, as they remain alert for predators, and a total of about two hours a day. The species also has seven vertebrae in its neck - the same as a human being - despite having one of the longest in the animal kingdom.

The Fota Connection

Towering above all other species on the African Savannah, the Rothschild Giraffe has a long association with Fota Wildlife Park. The herd feeds on willow and sallie branches throughout the day and has been part of a very successful breeding programme in Cork.

Once totaling as many as 15 individuals, Fota has sent giraffes all over the world, including Australia, and several giraffes born at the Park can now be seen at Blackpool Zoo in the UK.

A male giraffe from the Czech Republic – Walda - arrived at Fota in 2011 in the hope of increasing the group in the future. The Park’s other male, Tadhg, has already sired a number of calves since his arrival from Hamburg Zoo as a three-year-old and the two males are rotated with the females in an effort to avoid any conflict.

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The impetus for the development of the Asia Sanctuary is to enhance the Wildlife Park to become an iconic international visitor attraction.

The concept of the development will be in line with the existing unique open nature of the Wildlife Park but will be designed to give this new development an authentic Asian ambiance.

Phase 1: Asian Forestry June 2014

75.01%

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1,500,156

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Phase 2: Asian Wetlands June 2015

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200

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Phase 3: Asian Plains June 2016

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200

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