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 was born in 2007, and came to Australia Zoo in May 2009, all the way from Auckland Zoo in New Zealand. Forrest is easy to pick out from the rest of the herd as he is much taller than every other giraffe in the herd. He currently stands at around 5.6 meters tall and weighs in at around 1400kg!
Forrest is a lucky boy as he is the only male in our herd of eight giraffe here at Australia Zoo. He has already sired 6 calves - all who have been females. Four of his daughters are currently living in the herd - Skye, Ellie, Gigi and Scarlet.
Forrest's first offspring was born in October 2013 when calf Skye was born to mother Rosie. Rosie and Forrest are also parents to Scarlett, and Forrest has also had calves Ellie and Gigi with Sally and Penny. Forrest is a good father and appears to enjoy meeting each new calf as it arrives in the world.
Forrest seems to know he is the king of the paddock and can be quite demanding when he wants to be fed. However he is generally a very relaxed male who enjoys hanging out with all those females!
Penny was born at Perth Zoo and came here to us in May 2009. She was the very first giraffe to arrive at Australia Zoo (and indeed, the first giraffe in Queensland) but was joined shortly after by male, Forrest and then by our other two breeding females, Rosie and Sally.
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, with that honour going to Rosie.
Penny had her first calf in August 2014, and despite her mischievous personality, Penny took to motherhood straight away! Her newest calf is the stunning Gigi, and Penny is just as good a mum the second time around.
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 Gigi who will often be hanging out with her sisters Ellie and Scarlet.
Rosie arrived at Australia Zoo from Monarto Zoo in 2009, joining Penny and Forrest as one of our founder animals.
Rosie is a very confident, outgoing giraffe and is often leading the way into new and different situations. Rosie's favourite thing by far is food - she LOVES her food and often seems to inhale things like carrots rather than chewing first!
Rosie has had two beautiful female calves already including Skye, born in 2013 and the first giraffe born here at the zoo. She has since had another female calf, little Scarlet, born in late 2016. Rosie is a natural mum and both offspring appear to have inherited her confident personality
Sally came to Australia Zoo in 2011 from Monarto Zoo in South Australia. Sally was a very nervous and anxious animal when she arrived but has since grown in confidence - both within the herd and in her keepers. Her keepers now have a very good relationship with Sally and her trust in them has flourished.
Recognisable by her pale appearance and pastel orange spots, Sally can still be a very shy giraffe with new people and with unusual situations, but is super sweet in nature. While the other giraffe can be bossy around feeding time, Sally will politely hang back and wait until keepers have finished putting the food out.
Sally has had two calves with our male Forrest, and currently living in the herd is her daughter Ellie who was born in May 2016.
My name is Skye and I am Australia Zoo’s first ever giraffe baby, I was born in October 2013.
I am the daughter of mum Rosie and dad Forrest. I have been surrounded by affection by everyone since I was born and am now joined by my two younger sisters who I enjoy bonding with on the African Savannah.
My keepers adore me and think I am truly gorgeous! I can often be seen hanging back while the other giraffes rush over to the food. But not to worry, I don’t miss out – in fact I end up with food all to myself by simply waiting back!