Rothschild Giraffe. Interesting Facts about About Tallest Mammal On Earth

It is safe to say that almost can identify a Rothschild giraffe from miles away. With a long neck, it is hard not to see. For most of us, our first picture of a giraffe was in a book about the alphabet and animals, and G was for the Giraffe, L for the Lion, Z for the Zebra, etc.

With the spots of a leopard and the height of a camel, a giraffe is indeed a fascinating animal. You’ve seen a giraffe in pictures, on National Geographic World, in some animation movies and even in that ‘Hang Over’ movie.

There is a total of nine giraffe subspecies. The focus of this article is the Rothschild giraffe which is only found in Uganda and Kenya.

Here are some interesting facts to acquaint you with the Rothschild Giraffe.

1. Why Is It A Rothschild Giraffe?

It was named after a zoologist called Lionel Walter Rothschild who was the first person to attempt to describe the giraffe in the 1990s. I mean, it probably had a name before, and no one remembers it.

The Rothschild is one of the nine giraffe species and is scientifically known as Giraffa Camelopardalis Rothschildi.

It also is known as the Baringo giraffe because of the several family groups found populating Lake Baringo of Kenya. Rothschild giraffes can also be referred to as the Ugandan giraffes because of their presence in Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park.

A Rothschild Giraffe has 5 ‘horns’ on its head while the other giraffe subspecies have just the two top ossicones.

2. How Do Giraffes Live?

Rothschild giraffes live in small groups with the males and females living separately but close enough to each other. Male and female giraffes only come together for mating.

Giraffes can cohabit with other animals quite fine except when they feel threatened. With their outstanding long neck, you can spot giraffes when they are miles away – swaying majestically on the horizon of the national park and picking at the tall trees.

The long neck also serves as a defence tool for seeing an enemy predator a long way before it is close enough to attack, thus working to its advantage to get to safety and warn the other animals within the vicinity.

Giraffes spend most of their time walking around and looking for what to eat. Giraffes do not sleep often but when they do, they tuck their legs under the stomach and place the head across up to almost the tail. Curling themselves into a ball. Such a sight to behold.

Drinking water can be quite a hurdle for giraffes, and yet quite interesting to watch. They have to spread their legs real wide – about 40 degrees angle to be able to reach the water source. Giraffes also watch out for each other while drinking water as bending means one won’t watch out for predators that is why they go in pairs and watch out for each other.

3. Natural Habitat

Rothschild giraffes are found in Uganda and Kenya. They can be found in areas of grasslands and woodlands with scattered tall trees or open forests.

The nature and structure of the giraffes’ bodies do not allow them to live in dense forests, the movement could be a little difficult with their very long necks. The open forests in grasslands can accommodate their movement and eating habits.

According to the IUCN Redlist, Rothschild giraffes are classified as near threatened. Even though their population is slowly increasing, the threats to their survival are still at large. 2018 statistics indicate that there are about 1400 Rothschild giraffes left in the wild. About 60% of the remaining population is found in Uganda and the others in Kenya.

UPDATE:

Rothschild Giraffes were reintroduced to Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve in October 2019. They have also been reintroduced to Lake Mburo National Park. The 15 reintroduced giraffes in each of these protected areas aren’t many enough to guarantee a sighting while on safari.

In a nearby future, All these places will be great for seeing giraffes. Here is our article about the reintroduction of Giraffes in Pian Upe by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

4.  Diet

Giraffes are herbivores. The diet of a giraffe is comprised of leaves, stems, flowers and fruits of various plant species common in their habitat. They are ruminants meaning their stomach is chambered and they chew the cud.

Being large animals, giraffes need to eat a lot of food. An adult giraffe can eat up to 130 Kg of food in a single day. Since giraffes forage from one tree to the next, they move a lot as they feed – and can spend up to 30 hours while feeding around the park.

Giraffes do not drink water as much as they eat. They drink large sums of water which they hold in their bodies for so long and that is why they can live in the savannah with limited water sources.

The giraffe’s tongue is so long (1.5 feet) and dexterous. You can witness this by the way they round up the hard leaves from the trees into their mouths. When the male is feeding together with the female, you can easily tell them apart.

The males normally aim for the highest branches they can reach in the tree while the females will not. Yes, the male giraffes like showing off!

5. Physical Identification

Rothschild Giraffes do not have spots on the lower legs. This is the biggest difference you can spot from far away.

The giraffe is the tallest mammal on earth, the adult is approximately 5.8 metres (19 feet) and weighs an average of 1100 kilograms (2500 pounds). In context, a giraffe is as tall as Brad Pitt three times while standing.

They have five horn-like features on their heads (Ossicones); two on both sides of the head, two behind the ears and one right in the centre above the forehead.

This makes them unique from the other giraffe species which have just two ossicones. It has 18 to 20 inches long strong and flexible tongue. This is used to pull the hard acacia leaves, coil them and shove them into their mouths.

The Rothschild has leopard-like brown and orange spots with areas of beige all over the large body up to the beginning of its feet. The absence of spots on its lower legs makes the Rothschild giraffe look as if it is wearing some white stockings.

Fun fact: However long the neck is, it only has seven vertebrae just like the human neck.

6. Lifecycle

The male and female do not come together unless it is for mating. They are known for engaging in some kind of ritual fights over the females and whoever wins mates with the female they encounter. The gestation period takes about 13 to 15 months.

The mother giraffe gives birth standing straight on all four feet, miraculously not hurting the calf. The newborn giraffe calf will be up and about in 20 minutes sucking at her mother’s milk.

Giraffe calves are born about 6 feet tall and weigh from 45 to 70 kilograms (100 to 150 pounds). The young ones are weaned up to a year and stay with the mother. The Rothschild giraffe can live for 20 to 30 years in the wild.

The female giraffes become sexually mature at 3 to 4 years but cannot engage in any form of mating until the age of 5 years. The male giraffes take 4 to 5 years before reaching sexual maturity and commence breeding by the age of 7 years. By this age, the males have already become independent and joined other male herds.

7. Threats

On the outside it may look like the giraffe can handle its business, right? There is always something bigger, wittier and cannier. The Rothschild is dubbed a nearly threatened species because of several reasons.

Humans are probably the biggest problem for giraffes. Poaching is quite high for this rare species because when something is unique everyone wants a piece of it – especially its skin. Other predators in the wild include crocodiles, lions and leopards. They might be able to spot them a mile away, but they can not outrun all of them.

Habitat loss is another threat to the survival of giraffes. Their habitats are being encroached on by humans creating land for agriculture and urban development. It is estimated that there are only 1400 Rothschild giraffes left in the wild and about 60% of those are found in Uganda.

In areas of South Sudan and Northern DRC, it was thought that they could be there, but there isn’t any data to support their existence. With the political unrest in these areas (South Sudan & DRC), even the few that might be left could already be heading for extinction.

It is important to note that the population of Rothschild giraffes (especially in Uganda) is slowly increasing. This is due to factors like political stability, conservation research, and sustainable conservation and tourism activities.

Conclusion

Given that giraffes live in areas with specific environments, most of us first see their pictures in books (and nowadays the internet). In the wild, a giraffe walks around with the confidence that only the tallest land mammal could afford. Seeing giraffes for the first time is something you never forget.

Knowing these facts about the Rothschild giraffe gives you an idea of what to look out for when you are on that African Safari and you encounter these tall giants.

Here are some of our already-made itineraries that involve seeing giraffes in Uganda. These safari programs also include other attractions that Uganda has to offer.

Which of these facts was more interesting for you?

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