ANIMAL FACTS - Giraffe
Despite their height, giraffes have only seven vertebrae in their neck, the same as humans, mice and most other mammals. However, the vertebrae in a giraffe’s neck are far more elongated.
Giraffes are the tallest land animal in existence. Males reach heights of 5.5 meters (18 ft) and weigh up to 1900kg. At birth, calves are approx 1.8 meters (6ft) tall and weigh approximately 50-55kg. Giraffes have extremely long necks which they use to reach browse high in the trees. Surprisingly, they have only seven vertebrae in their neck - the same as humans, mice and most other mammals! However, the vertebrae in a giraffe’s neck are far more elongated.
Giraffes are native to Africa and are reasonably widespread. They are found in open woodlands and savannah habitats.
A very long neck allows giraffes to reach all the leaves that the smaller browsing animals cannot. In fact, the only competition giraffes have for food is the elephant which can use its trunk to reach branches, or simply push the tree over! Giraffes are selective browsers feeding mainly from varieties of Acacia and Combretum plant species. From time to time, they are seen eating vines, herbs or even chewing on bones for extra minerals. They spend a whopping 16-20 hours-per-day browsing. Giraffes have a prehensile tongue which they use like fingers by curling it around the leaves to pluck them easily from the branch. Their tongue is very long– growing up to 40cm in length!
Giraffes are quiet animals and generally rely on sight as their primary sense. However, they do possess vocal chords which allow them to make a variety of sounds. Adults bellow, grunt and make a whistling noise, while calves bleat and moo. They are also able to communicate with infra-sound; a low frequency sound which is undetectable to humans.
Forrest is a lucky boy as he is the token male in the giraffe herd of seven at Australia Zoo. He is the proud father of three beautiful girls, Skye, Lily and Tulip. These calves can be easily spotted on the savannah as they’re much shorter than the rest of the herd.
Forrest was born in 2007, and came to Australia Zoo in May 2009, all the way from Auckland Zoo in New Zealand. Although he stands much taller than the females, it is likely he still has a bit of growing to do. He could get taller and could potentially weigh as much as 1900kg when fully grown!
Forrest became a first-time father in October 2013 when baby Skye was born to mother Rosie. Sally and Penny gave birth to Forrest’s second and third daughters Tulip and Lily in mid-2014 and he has continued to mature with fatherhood.
When he was younger, Forrest could be demanding around food if not fed fast enough. However, these days he is much more relaxed and is a doting father to Skye, Lily and Tulip.
Lilly is daughter to Forrest and first-time-mum Penny. She was welcomed to the world in August 2014, just four weeks after her half-sister Tulip.
Lilly is the shyest of all our giraffe; she takes a while to get used to new things and new people, and often politely hangs back when it comes to meal time. Lilly does have her silly moments though, and her favourite game to play is chasing ducks!
Lilly and Tulip follow each other around like shadows and are happiest when they are together, often preferring to hang out with each other rather than their parents (but what kid doesn't prefer their mates?).
Penny is a proud first-time mum to baby Lily, born in August 2014! Penny was the first giraffe ever to call Australia Zoo her home and she is also the first ever giraffe to live in Queensland. As if she needed anything else to make her special...
Penny was born at Perth Zoo and came here to us in May 2009, joined shortly after by male giraffe, Forrest.
Penny is a cheeky character, and if any of our giraffes are up to mischief - you can almost guarantee it will be Penny! She likes to be first for training and first to eat, but unfortunately missed out on being first to give birth in our giraffe herd.
Next time you're visiting the Africa exhibit, keep your eye out for Penny by looking for a butterfly-shaped pattern on her chest – and don’t forget to look out for her beautiful daughter, Lily, who can be seen hanging around with sisters Skye and Tulip.
Rosie is Australia Zoo’s friendly, mother-of-one to Skye, and she’s proven to be a loving mum for her little one!
After arriving from Monarto Zoo in South Australia in 2009, Rosie quickly warmed to keepers and is easily the most confident female giraffe. She loves her food and enjoys interacting with guests during the encounter, where they are of course...feeding her!
Recognisable by her pale appearance and pastel orange spots, Sally is shy but sweet in nature. Sally is also a mother-of-one to Tulip, born here at Australia Zoo in July 2014.
While giraffe can often be bossy around feeding time, keepers observe Sally letting the other giraffe go first. Sally is happy to wait her turn for food, and has excellent manners to pass on to her daughter.
Sally came to Australia Zoo in 2011 from Monarto Zoo in South Australia. Australia Zoo keepers have enjoyed building trust with Sally and note that her training is progressing well.
Skye is Australia Zoo’s first ever giraffe baby, and was born in October 2013. Born to mum Rosie and dad Forrest, Skye has been surrounded by attention and is now joined by two younger sisters who she’s enjoyed bonding with on the African Savannah.
Skye is particularly clever, and can often be seen hanging back while the herd rush over to the food. But not to worry, she doesn’t miss out – in fact she ends up with food all to herself by simply waiting back!
Skye’s birth signifies a successful breeding program, and brings promise of conservation of the giraffe species.
Tulip is one of four giraffe calves born here at Australia Zoo and daughter to Forrest and Sally.
Tulip was born in July 2014 and was named ‘Tulip' for her likeness to the tulip flower; tall and spectacular!
Tulip was initially quite shy, however she's grown into a confident, outgoing young giraffe whose sweet personality can be attributed to her gentle mother. Tulip enjoys putting on a show at her morning keeper interactive sessions and can be seen hanging out with her best friend and sister Lilly on our African Savannah.