LATIN NAMEGiraffa camelopardalis rothschildi
BIOMETemperate Grasslands and deserts
COME AND FIND ME AT..
African Savannah /Giraffe House
About the Rothschild's Giraffe
Fota Wildlife Park is home to a herd of Rothschild’s 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.
Rothschild’s 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 45-50cm long and prehensile, allowing the giraffe to grip branches with it.
The Rothschild’s Giraffe is the tallest of the subspecies with males growing to six metres in height and weighing around 800kg (adult female) to 1200kg (adult male). Rothschild’s Giraffes have obvious ossicones on their head. Ossicone means bone cone and it is a cone-shaped nodule that resembles a short horn, but it is not a horn. Horns are made of keratin while ossicones are made of bone. While most giraffes possess two ossicones, the Rothschild’s Giraffe has five ossicones on its head.
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.
Giraffes inhabit savannahs, grasslands, and open woodlands across Africa, but the Rothschild’s 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.
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.
Rothschild’s Giraffes are social animals that live in unstable herds of 10 to 20 individuals, although there can be up to 50 members. However, they do not have strong social ties like other animal species with the exception being mothers with their offspring, since each member of the herd can leave the group at will. The herds are comprised of females, offspring, juveniles, and a number of males. Their ability to attain speeds averaging 56kph coupled with a powerful kick enables them to defend themselves quite effectively when threatened.
Newborn giraffes enter the world with front legs and headfirst, followed by their body, and then back legs. Because of the extreme size of their offspring, giraffe mums give birth standing up so as to not damage their babies’ lengthy necks after a gestation period of 15 months.
Exterminated from much of their former habitat, an estimated 670 Rothschild’s Giraffes now exist in the wild in western Kenya and eastern Uganda. This is mainly due to 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 production while its hides were used to make water buckets.
Did You Know?
Giraffes sleep intermittently due to the many risks that they face in the wild. For this reason, giraffes in the wild won’t sleep for more than five minutes at any one time, averaging a total of 30 minutes over a 24-hour period. Rothschild’s Giraffes possess seven neck vertebrae similar to humans! However, for giraffes, each vertebra can be over 24cm in length!
The Fota Connection.
Towering above all other species on the African Savannah, the Rothschild’s Giraffe has a long association with Fota Wildlife Park. It is one of the most popular species in the Park, with the public choosing it as their favourite animal in a recent survey by Behaviour and Attitudes (2019).
The herd feeds on locally and sustainably grown Willow branches throughout the day as well as a variety of additional foodstuffs including haylage . Fota Wildlife Park has successfully bred 69 calves with the most recent birth being a male (Rían) to mother Sapphire and first-time father, Ferdie in 2019. There is a long-standing tradition in the park that every calf born in Fota receives an Irish name.
Right across Africa, Giraffe populations have suffered a 40% decline in the past thirty years, making them an even greater priority for conservation efforts by zoological collections.
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