We’re traveling around the globe to learn about the world’s many animals, and today we’re making a stop at Busch Gardens Tampa to learn more about nature’s tallest animals - giraffes!
Although there are several different species of giraffes, Busch Gardens Tampa is home to reticulated giraffes. These giraffes have irregular-shaped, tan-colored spots surrounded by a network of bright white lines on their coat. Reticulated giraffes are found in northeastern Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Busch Gardens many giraffes can be spotted on the 65-acre Serengeti Plain, which is accessible to guests via the Serengeti Safari tour, the Serengeti Express train or from viewing points along the Edge of Africa pathway. The theme park works closely with other AZA (American Association of Zoos and Aquariums) institutions to manage its giraffe population through a program called the Species Survival Plan (SSP).
Here are some fun facts about giraffes:
The giraffes are the tallest animal in the world, standing are around 4-5m high, and the tallest giraffes ever recorded have been up to 5.9m. To put that into perspective, that’s over a meter higher than a double-decker bus! They also weigh a ton too - up to 1900kg!
In a 2016 study it was found that the giraffe is not a single species, but rather a subfamily containing four distinct species - the northern giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), southern giraffe (Giraffa giraffa), reticulated giraffe (Giraffa reticulata) and Masai giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi).
Giraffes are not considered endangered. The IUCN classifies the animals as a species of ‘least concern’.
The giraffe genus (Giraffa) is part of the Giraffidae family, which contains only one other species: the okapi, the closest relative of the giraffe. The okapi has a shorter neck, just like the extinct species from which both it and giraffes are thought to have evolve.
Giraffes CAN swim! Until recently, it was assumed that a giraffe's long legs would not provide sufficient support in water to hold up its neck, and that the proportion of its elongates extremities to its short body would reduce buoyancy. However, a 2010 study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology used a complex digital model to prove that the average adult giraffe would, in fact, become buoyant in 2.8m of water. Admittedly its heavy front legs would tip the animal forward, so to keep its head clear, it would need to crank its neck backwards at an awkward angle, wheile the legs, swept to the rear, would have limited power. So, a giraffe could theoretically swim, but likely would never choose to.
Both male and female giraffes have ‘horns’ at birth. These ‘ossicones’, lie flat and are not attached to the skull to avoid injury at birth. They only fuse with the skull later in life. Giraffe horns become weapons in adult males.
No two giraffes have the same pattern.
Giraffes are super tall, so it is no surprise that their tongues are huge too! They are bluish-purple and between 45-50cm long.
Giraffes mostly eat fresh leaves and twigs from the tops of trees (particularly spiky acacia trees). because of this, giraffes are better able to cope with droughts than other animals, as the tallest trees tend to have the deepest roots that reach down to water that other trees can’t access.
Find out more about giraffes and see them roaming the plains with tickets to Busch Gardens Tampa from Best of Orlando.