Long eyelashes hover over soulful eyes like a much needed hat on a hot summer’s day. Awkward bodies with knobbly joints tower over the landscape below. Brown cobblestone patterns fit like puzzle pieces on beige fur. A winding tongue, slightly purply and graphite in colour, snakes its way around fresh shoots and leaves.
If you hadn’t already guessed, we’re describing the attributes of our gentle giraffe, one of the most attractive looking of all the plains game. The giraffe is the tallest land animal and the collective noun for a herd is “tower”. We’re not surprised at the terminology given the height of a giraffe that averages at a whopping 4 – 6 m tall. These gentle giants are found in abundance in the Balule Nature Reserve, which provides plenty of lush thickets and variety of flora.
Here are a few interesting facts about giraffe :
1. Consider it a momentous occasion when you see a giraffe cross-legged and about to drink at a waterhole. Giraffe only drink every couple of days and gain most of the moisture content from the vegetation they digest. When they bend down to drink it puts them in a very vulnerable position, making them an easy target for predators.
2. A baby giraffe falls a good few metres to the ground when born because the mother gives birth standing up. They literally “hit the ground running” because they have the innate ability to start running within an hour of being born.
3. Both male and female giraffe have hairy horn-like protrusions on the top of their skull. These are called ossicones and they’re made from cartilage. Males use them when sparring with other males in the quest for dominance. You’ll find the top of their ossicones appear quite hairless from frequent necking/intertwining with other males during battle.
4. Diet wise, giraffe will adapt to what is available in the area. They are browsers which means they typically eat leaves and buds on shrubs or trees. They have an excessively long tongue which is dark in colour and immune to the sun’s harsh rays. This is important because the tongue is continuously exposed while being wrapped around twigs in search of the finest greens.
5. Over a span of 24 hours, a giraffe only needs roughly 30 minutes sleep. Even when asleep they are on high alert and on the lookout for predators. They don’t sleep solidly for that duration and rather take a series of short naps throughout the 24 hours.