- Scientific name: Giraffa camelopardalis
- IUCN status: Conservation dependent
- Habitat: Sub-Saharan Africa – open grassland with scattered trees
- Diet: Herbivore – mainly leaves
Male giraffes are the world’s tallest animals, attaining nearly 6m (20ft) in height and weighing up to 1900kg (4200lb). Their height enables them to reach juicy acacia and myrrh leaves that are too high for other browsing wildlife such as antelope and elephants. They also have a modified upper neck joint, allowing them to stretch their head upwards, and a tough 45cm (17.6in) tongue for tackling the thorniest of high branches. When stretching down to eat and drink, giraffes have a special valve that prevents their blood rushing to their brain.
Although giraffes have adapted to coping with the thorns of the Acacia tree, this tough plant has developed other ways to make it harder for browsing animals to enjoy its leaves and shoots and reduce its losses. Some species have hollow thorns that are colonised by ants, which attack any animal looking for a tasty meal. Acacias also warn each other to prepare for an attack by producing bitter chemicals.
Giraffes spend much of their day feeding so nature has provided them with dark blue tongues to prevent them from getting sunburned!