ANIMAL FACTS - Giraffe
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 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 five at Australia Zoo. Currently a father of one, Forrest will soon become a father of three - with Sally and Penny about to give birth.
He 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 tall and could potentially weigh as much as 1900kg when fully grown!
Forrest became a first-time father in October last year when baby Skye was born to mother Rosie, and has matured 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!
Heavily pregnant Penny is due to give birth to her first baby in August! 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. We’re expecting her first baby in August, so you may just see her little one next time you are here too!
Rosie is Australia Zoo’s friendly mother-of-one to Skye, born in October last year.
She’s proven to be a loving mum for her little one, and – as Forrest is giving Rosie lots of attention again, we have a feeling it may not be too long before she is pregnant again, which would be extremely exciting for the Australia Zoo family!
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, mother-to-be Sally is shy but sweet in nature.
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 calf when it is born!
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. Due any day now, she is the talk of Africa!