Towering above the rest 

As the tallest mammal on earth, with males growing up to 6 metres tall, you would imagine a giraffe would stand out! But the intricate patterns covering their bodies help camouflage even these towering giants in their natural African habitat, and every individual has their own unique markings! 

Standing out has never been a trait of giraffe. Up until 2016, scientists believed there was just one species of giraffe. In 2016 it was confirmed, that in fact there were four different species, with five subspecies!

Long necks and long legs

One of the first things you notice about a giraffe is that incredibly long neck, which surprisingly has just seven vertebrae – the same as a human neck! Male giraffes use their neck like a sword to fight other male giraffes. What are they fighting about? Usually a female! 

Their long necks also help giraffe to reach the highest leaves to feed on. However, not that helpful when it comes to drinking water. Have you ever experienced a rush of blood to the head when you stand up too quickly? Imagine what it would be like if your neck was as long as a giraffe’s!? Luckily, they have a large heart (weighing up to 11kg) and high blood pressure so they can pump the blood up to their brain. They also have elastic blood vessels and double valves to prevent that sudden rush of blood to the head.  

The long legs of a giraffe are also pretty special! These legs can help them reach speeds of up to 50-60km an hour, although they can only sustain these speeds for short periods of time. With long legs that can extend in any direction, and lethal kicks that can kill even a lion, these long legs are not only handy, but can indeed be life-saving!

Meet the tower 

Instead of a flock or herd, a group of giraffe are known as a tower! Pretty fitting given they tower above everything else on the savannah! 

  • Rukiya is the head and shoulders above the rest. Well maybe just a head. She is currently the tallest giraffe at Auckland Zoo. She was born in 2001 at Wellington Zoo. Her markings are darker than the other females. 
  • Kiraka was born in 2009 and joined the whanau from Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia. 
  • Kabili was born to mum Kiraka at Auckland Zoo on New Year’s Eve 2016.
  • Billy is the latest addition to our giraffe tower. He is the youngest, born September 2018 at Australia Zoo. As male giraffes can grow up to 6m tall, over the years he will likely outgrow Rukiya to become the tallest of the tower.  
Video

Happy World Giraffe Day!

Ungulates keepers Luke and Dan discuss the care that goes in to looking after our giraffe here at Auckland Zoo and how that translates to caring for giraffe in the wild.

At the Zoo 

Extended family 

Just like in the African Savanna, our giraffe share a habitat with our zebra and ostrich. In the wild this combination of animals provides a good level of security from predators. With their long necks, giraffe can see potential predators up to 1km away and warn the others. Zebra, have better night vision and can sound the predator alarm at night. Here at Auckland Zoo, they don’t need to be on the lookout for a stray predator, but a mixed-species habitat provides a high level of behavioural enrichment.

Stretch the neck 

Our Ungulates and Zoo Design, Environment and Construction Teams worked together to create a feeding system that enables our giraffe to eat at height, encouraging the natural browsing behaviour of a giraffe. You can check out how it was done here.

Touch your toes 

Although giraffe can go up to a month without water, their habitat at Auckland Zoo has a watering hole. And even though they have a really long neck, it is actually too short to reach the ground from a standing position – maybe one of the only disadvantages of their long legs! If you see the giraffe taking a drink, you will notice they have to splay their front legs out wide so they can reach the water.  

Video

How do you transport a giraffe across the ditch?

17-month-old Billy recently travelled via ship from our friends at Australia Zoo to reach his new home in Auckland.

Why are we doing it? 

Giraffe are often referred to as the forgotten giant. There are currently around 110, 000 giraffe across the species left in the wild. This is a decline of 30%  of the population since the 1980s. GCF is the only NGO in the world that concentrates solely on the conservation and management of wild giraffe throughout Africa and is dedicated to a sustainable future for all giraffe populations in the wild. They implement and support key conservation research that will help the long-term conservation of giraffe in Africa. It was GCF’s research that found there were actually four species and five subspecies of giraffe, instead of just the one which was previously thought. 

Video

We've created enriching new feeders for our giraffes!

When animal enrichment is the outcome, our Auckland Zoo whānau are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done – even when that job involves moving two incredibly large trees across the zoo in the name of giraffe enrichment.