The giraffe is a unique African herbivore, the largest and oldest living terrestrial mammal and the second largest ruminant animal. It is considered by many to be one unique species, Giraffa camelotis, with at least nine subspecies worldwide. Though there are many specimens from giraffes living in zoos, this species has only been seen in the wild in the Kalahari Desert. A combination of both land and water, giraffes primarily eat grasses and seeds although they will also eat vegetation close to their location. Lizards, snakes and insects also make up a large part of a giraffe’s diet, though they appear to prefer both plants and meat over these.
One of the most popular areas in which giraffes are found is in southern Africa, including the Okavango, Botswana, Serengeti and Victoria Falls regions. In recent years giraffes have become a popular draw at zoos, particularly the San Diego Zoo. There they display a number of spectacular species such as the giraffe, an African Bush elephant, Indian lion, zebra and hippo. This species has also become known to breed with a variety of other animals including deer, antelopes, buffalo, pig, chicken, pigs and monkeys. In addition, they are commonly known to occur in zoos with large herds of zebras, impala, buffalo, antelopes, ostriches and hippos.
Giraffes have made great strides in recent years and are now farmed successfully in captivity in countries such as Germany, Botswana and Namibia. In Botswana, giraffes are extensively hunted for their horns, which are used in the manufacture of medicine and others for consumption. In Germany, farmers use giraffes for a variety of animal feeds and also for pest control due to their voracity for antelope. The Okavango Delta in Namibia is the origin of the world’s largest giraffe population. giraffes in this area have also benefited from long-term protection by the authorities and in turn show little interest in hunting.
In southern Africa another critically endangered species is the giraffe. The giraffe was one of the seven species of semi-domestic animals (along with leopards, rhinoceros, cheetah and lion) identified by the World Wildlife Fund as critically endangered in 2021. However, giraffes have made some progress since this listing was issued and the Okavango region has seen a substantial increase in giraffe numbers in recent years. The semi-domestic giraffes are distributed across a large area of Okavango; the most densely populated is the Okavango Delta. This semi-domestic giraffe subspecies is vulnerable to poaching, especially near Lake Magadi, its underground water source.
South Africa is not the only area where critically endangered Giraffes exist; in north-east Africa, the Etosha National Park has a population of rarer but still dangerous giraffes. These include the black rhino and white rhino; the latter being at risk of extinction due to a sharp decline in its population owing to poaching. The Etosha park is home to a number of vulnerable Giraffe families in the south central Etosha region. It is here that the giraffes concentrate their grazing efforts on young calves and mothers who become pregnant during the dry summer months. The calves are born preciously, increasing the chance of reducing the numbers very quickly.
Giraffes in the Etosha National Park are threatened by encroaching acacia trees which can take over grasslands and reduce the amount of moisture in the soil. The giraffes eat acacia leaves, seeds and stems but can also consume the leaves of other plants. They are known to travel long distances searching for food. In areas where there are no grasslands, they must eat the acacines in the surrounding regions.