"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." - Edward O. Wilson
Inverdoorn is proud of its 28 giraffes that gracefully glide through the reserve. They are truly spectacular creatures, both beautiful in aspect and calm in nature. The herds are nomadic and the temporary association connected with their social structure means that any giraffe is free to join or leave the herd as they please. This is certainly an attitude humans would do well to adopt. The giraffe is the tallest land mammal and can grow up to six metres, with their necks usually constituting about two metres of that length. The necks are made up of only seven vertebrae. The neck is a natural adaptation that allows them to feed. They are browsers, eating leaves off trees, and are particularly fond of the leaves of acacia trees, which makes up 90% of their diet at Inverdoorn. Their powerful tongue (which is 45cm in length) manipulates the acacia thorns to get to the leaves. They have a powerful heart just below the neck and it requires power as it needs to pump blood all the way up the neck to its head. This is especially astounding considering that the heart is small in relation to its body size – making up only about 1% of its body size. The males are usually taller and bigger and are bald, as opposed to the females who have a tuft of hair covering their horns. When fighting the males will sway and whack each other with their necks and are also prone to using their heads.
When calves are born they will drop from two metres to the ground, without breaking any bones. Their natural predators are lions and hyenas. The hyena has a special technique to hunt giraffe, chasing it and allowing it to tire out.
The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant. Its binomial name refers to its camel-like face and the patches of color on its fur. Its chief distinguishing characteristics are its extremely long neck and legs, its horn-like ossicones and its distinctive markings. It stands 5–6 m (16–20 ft) tall and has an average weight of 1,600 kg (3,500 lb) for males and 830 kg (1,800 lb) for females. It is classified under the family Giraffidae, along with its closest extant relative, the okapi. There are nine subspecies, which are distinguished by their coat patterns.
The giraffe's scattered range extends from Chad in the north to South Africa in the south, and from Niger in the west to Somalia in the east. Giraffes usually inhabit savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands. Their primary food source is acacia leaves, which they can browse at heights that most other herbivores cannot reach. Giraffes are preyed on by lions, and calves are also targeted by leopards, spotted hyenas and wild dogs. Adult giraffes do not have strong social bonds, though they do gather in loose aggregations if they happen to be moving in the same general direction. Males establish social hierarchies through "necking", which are combat bouts where the neck is used as a weapon. Dominant males gain mating access to females, who bear the sole responsibility for raising the young.
The giraffe has intrigued various cultures, both ancient and modern, for its peculiar appearance, and has often been featured in paintings, books and cartoons. It is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Least Concern, but has been extirpated from many parts of its former range, and some subspecies are classified as Endangered. Nevertheless, giraffes are still found in numerous national parks and game reserves.
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