West African Giraffe

West African Giraffe

West African or Nigerian Giraffe – Giraffa camelopardalis peralta

Description

The West African Giraffe can weigh up to 2,800 pounds and be from 16 to 19 feet tall. They are also called the Nigerian Giraffe due to the fact that is where most of them are found. The males will weigh more than the females when they are full grown. However, it can still be hard to tell them apart.

One way you can distinctly tell the male and female West African Giraffes from each other is by viewing the horns. The males are very thick and usually bald. They can be about five inches off the skull too. For females, they are more like knobs than horns. They are thin and they have hair on them.

The coloring for these giraffes can vary as well. The range is from a light brown to a very dark brown. The males continue to get darker in color as they get older. Some of the very old ones will even have a black coloring to them. The spots on this particular species of giraffe are much lighter than the others.

West African Giraffe Anatomy

As with any species of giraffe, it is hard to miss the very long neck that spans many feet. Watching them walk is very interesting. Their anatomy makes the giraffe the only animal that walks with both legs on the same side of the body at the same time instead of with the two front ones and then the two back ones. They do it very gracefully as well. Yet when they gallop they move in the traditional way which is very interesting to researchers that they can have such distinctive movements.

Giraffes stay warm due to the short hairs that are all over their bodies. Most people don’t even realize that they have hair instead of a coat. They never shed hair which is another reason this fact is often overlooked. In spite of the huge size, these animals can run very fast when they need to. When they are running from predators that can be up to 35 miles per hour for a short span of time.

The senses of hearing, smelling, and vision are all excellent for the West African Giraffes. They are able to see predators that are many miles away as well as to smell them. This offers them plenty of protection in the wild. It is very interesting to discover that their heart weigh about 25 pounds.

West African Giraffe Evolution

It is believed these giraffes evolved from animals that look very similar to the deer we know of today. The issue that continues to be debated is the development of their amazing necks. Did that occur for evolution purposes? So that they could feed from locations in trees that other animals couldn’t? There are also experts that believe they were once meat eaters and that becoming dependent on plant life is also part of how they evolved.

West African Giraffe Behavior

Like all giraffes they live in a herd of about 15 members. They have a desire for socialization that seems to be a huge part of their life from birth until death.

Giraffes are believed to be very intelligent animals. Some people perceive them as being non-vocal but that isn’t true. They use snorting and moaning to interact with each other. They will make loud sounds to warn of impending danger. They are very affectionate towards each other and can be seen rubbing heads. The males can be very aggressive with each other though. They can fight for leadership roles as well as for the right to mate.

You will often find these giraffes around other species of plant eating animals. Experts believe that these other animals view the giraffe as a safe location. Since giraffes are tall they can see what other animals can’t. With their great vision and smelling they can warn other animals of predators that may be in the area.

Nigerian giraffe characteristics

West African Giraffe – Giraffa camelopardalis peralta / Photo taken by Roland H.

West African Giraffe Habitat and Distribution

There are many areas around West Africa where this particular species of giraffe is found. Those locations include Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Mali. The West African Giraffe is known to live in a variety of different habitats. This includes the dessert, the savannahs, and areas of the dense forest. As long as they can find food and water any location out there can become a temporary habitat for them.

West African Giraffe Diet and Feeding Habits

These giraffes consume very large amounts of plant life. They are nomadic, continually moving around for food instead of being territorial and protecting a given location. They feed from the tops of the trees where other animals simply can’t reach. What is interesting is that they won’t deplete a given area of all food before moving on. This way the vegetation there can continue to be healthy. They will be able to return to it in the future to eat again.

They mainly feed on shrubs and leaves from trees. They are able to eat foods from thorny trees when most other animals simply wouldn’t be able to. This is possible due to the thickness of their tongues and throat. They have four four-chamber stomach that allow them to process their daily intake of food.

These giraffes can go without water for some days. It is very interesting to watch them drink. They have to spread their legs out to distribute the weight and then lean their long necks forward.

West African Giraffe Reproduction

Even though the West African Giraffes are ready to mate around 5 years of age, most of them are at least 7 years old before they do so. For the males it can be even later in life due to the fighting they do with each other for mating. They will perform a ritual called necking. During this process they swing their necks at each other until one walks away. The one remaining is the one that can earn the right for mating. You have to keep in mind that for an adult giraffe the neck can weigh about 500 pounds.

The gestation period for the West African Giraffe is 15 months. A single birth is almost always the case. However, some reports of twins being born have been documented. The young are about 6 feet tall when they are born. They can also walk within a couple of hours. They can also weigh about 150 pounds at that time.

The females of a herd will do their very best to work as a team and raise the offspring. They create nurseries for them so that the female adults can take turns eating. The young consume milk from their mother’s bodies for about the first year of life. During the later part of that time they will begin to eat from shrubs and small trees they are able to reach.

Predators

The biggest predator of the West African Giraffe is the lion. They know if they take down such an animal they will have plenty of meat to feast upon. They tend to look for the older and slower giraffes of a herd though. They will also get the young offspring if they get the opportunity. Some other predators that they are bothered by include crocodiles and felines.

All predators of this and other giraffes have to be very careful. They know that a kick from such a strong animal can crush their skull instantly. The time when these animals are the most vulnerable is when they are drinking. Predators can grab them by the neck at that time which is why they often drink in shifts. Only about half of these giraffes reach adulthood though due to the predators.