This morning I awoke to fresh footprints outside my cottage

I wish I had been awake to see my visitor.

The giraffe is one of my favorite animals.  Early written records described the giraffe as “magnificent in appearance, bizarre in form, unique in gait, colossal in height and inoffensive in character.

 Ancient cultures in Africa revered the giraffe, as some modern cultures do today, and commonly depicted it in prehistoric rock and cave paintings. Unknown outside of Africa, this animal so excited man’s curiosity that it was sometimes sent as a diplomatic gift to other countries; one of the earliest records tells of a giraffe going from “Melinda” (presumably Malindi) in Kenya to China in 1415. The animal was thought to be a cross between a camel and a leopard, a mistake immortalized in the giraffe’s scientific name of Giraffa camelopardalis.  I always wondered where the Afrikaans name for Giraffe came from – Kameelperd.  The latin name explains it all.

On our reserve we have 9 giraffes – two of which were born this season.  The babies were gorgeous but have grown so fast – they look like teenagers already.

Here is one of the babies peeping out of the bush at me. 

When we first arrived on the reserve, the animals were not used to people being around – most owners only having empty land or holiday cottages.  We are the first permanent humans on the reserve.  It was so hard to see the giraffes because they would run before we got near.  Now, with W doing a lot of walking in the bush, we have discovered how to get closer, and the Gerries are getting used to us.  W whistles to them and they really seem to know him already.  They are VERY inquisitive – even when they are scared they still want to see what we are doing.  We have found that if you do not make eye contact with them, and pretend not to look at them, they believe you havent seen them {talk about an inferiority complex – how the heck could you miss such a huge animal!} – Anyway – we get quite close now.

It is quite easy to tell the difference between male and female adults and a little more difficult with younger giraffes.  The older males have worn the hair off the tops of their horns from necking (giraffe fighting).  The females have quite fluffy tips on their horns and the horns are closer together and more delicate looking than the thick stubby male horns.  I still find it easier to look at their bellies and see what “bits” are there or not.

Female giraffes are pregnant for 13 to 14 months and they give birth standing up.  The new baby falls about 1 – 1,5 meters to the ground as it is born.  The baby is about 1,8 meters tall (6ft) and they live for about 20-25 years.

I love watching them drink water.  It’s quite an awkward thing and they are very vulnerable to attack when they drink so its a nervy experience.

A giraffe has a valve in the blood vessels in its neck that closes when it puts its head down. This stops all the blood from rushing into its head. You will see, when a giraffe finishes drinking, it will give its head a little shake to open the valve again.

One of the weirdest things to me about a giraffe, is the way it walks – one of the only animals that uses both its right legs and both its left legs at the same time, instead of alternate legs as most other animals.  The minute it starts running however, it changes to an alternate gait. If I tried that, I would fall on my butt nose. {maybe thats why I only have two legs}

Hope you learned a little about one of my favorite animals.  Which other animals would you like to hear about?


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