January 5 – How High The Mooch?

Today’s factismal: There are nine subspecies of giraffe living in Africa.

Until we went to Australia and ran into the duckbill platypus, the giraffe was the surest evidence of Nature’s sense of humor. With the hump of a camel and the spots of a leopard, it was originally called a “cameleopard” until people decided the name sounded too silly and started calling it by the name the Arabs used (“zarafa” for “fast walker”). No matter what you call it, the giraffe is an amazing animal. It is the world’s tallest living land animal; at 15-20 ft tall, it was about the same height as the Camarasaurus (though much, much less massive!). It has a 20 inch long tongue that it can wriggle around like a monkey’s tail; it uses the tongue to grasp acacia leaves from between the thorns on the tree. And, most amazingly, it has a neck that is six feet long to help it reach the tenderest acacia leaves at the top of the tree.

The giraffe's spots help hide them in the brush (My camera)

The giraffe’s spots help hide them in the brush
(My camera)

But while most zoo-goers lump all giraffes into one group, there are actually nine different subspecies, mostly named after the region where they were first identified: Nubian, Angolan (Namibian), Kordofan, Masai (Kilimanjaro), Rothschild’s, South African, Rhodesian, and the common reticulated giraffe. Each subspecies of giraffe lives in a different part of Africa with a different environment. For example, the shorter trees of mean the Kordofan giraffe is smaller than the Masai which lives in a region with taller trees. And the common reticulated giraffe is adapted to live in almost any savanah or woodland in Africa.

Two juvenile giraffes on the road to adulthood (My camera)

Two juvenile giraffes on the road to adulthood
(My camera)

Though giraffes are generally considered to be of little concern, some of the subspecies, such as the Rhodesian and Rothschild’s giraffes, are endangered. One way to save these (and other) endangered animals is with citizen science, like that offered by mammalMap. Using camera traps and other monitoring methods, the scientists at mammalMap are trying to learn the range and distribution of every large mammal species in Africa. So if you’ve got photographs showing where and when you saw an African mammal, submit it to them!

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