My husband and I were driving slowly along a road in the Kruger National Park, watching for animals. I lifted a pair of binoculars to study the distant terrain. Suddenly two out-of-focus poles shot past my window.
“What was that?” I asked.
The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant.
“I didn’t see anything,” my husband replied. We looked back and saw a huge giraffe standing alongside the road. We had driven by so close, concentrating on the road and the far distance, that we failed to see what was right above our noses!
In the savannah grass of Africa, a tree-trimmer is needed to keep the fast-growing acacia trees from blocking out the sun from the grass below, so it can continue to provide nourishment for the earth-bound grass-eaters. And so God gave us the giraffe!
We know the giraffe is the tallest animal in the world, growing up to 5.5 meters (18 feet)—tall enough to look in a second-story window without standing on tiptoe! Yet did you know he only has seven cervical vertebrae, the same number as a tiny mouse? His vertebrae are just much longer.
His height enables him to act as a sentinel for other animals.He has excellent eyesight and a curious disposition. When he sees predator cats approaching, he warns other animals with a few swishes of his tail, then moves from danger with his eighteen-foot stride.
The babies arrive on planet earth with a hefty fall of about two metres (six feet), usually landing on their backs. Within half an hour they are on their feet, and ten hours later they are able to run with their mothers. The baby grows up to an inch a day. (And we think our kids grow fast!)
In the same way as we all have different DNA and different fingerprints, no two giraffes have the same beautiful patterned coat. So each one is unique.
I love watching a giraffe move. He stands tall, erect, and graceful, and strides across the savanna with a swaying motion that oozes confidence. Yet he can gallop up to a speed of 60 km/h (37 mph) if necessary.
Of course, the giraffe’s lankiness can also cause him problems, although even lions think twice to attack unless they think he is in a vulnerable position. A giraffe under attack can kill a lion with a hefty kick! However, it is dangerous for them to drink at a water hole.
They have to spread their legs and bend down awkwardly to reach the water. Fortunately they only need to drink once every few days, as they get most of their moisture from the luscious leaves they eat.
The world would be a safer place for us all if the nations would learn from the giraffe. These peaceful animals only attack if they are threatened, and they never discriminate against giraffes who have a different skin pattern or who come from a different region.