When people think of giraffes, they think of their long, speckled necks. The neck and legs of a giraffe make it the tallest land animal on earth-some reach 17 feet in height. It is striking, then, that Arabs chose to name the giraffe not for its neck, but for its speed: “giraffe” comes from an Arab word that means, the one that walks very fast. A giraffes single stride covers fifteen feet of ground, and while running they can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour. It would indeed be striking to watch something so large move so quickly!
Because the giraffe is a plant-eater, or herbivore, it does not have to hunt as many carnivores do. The favorite food of the giraffe is the leaves of the acacia tree. When feeding, giraffes are careful to choose trees out in the open, where their height gives them a birds-eye view of the plains. In this way, giraffes reduce the risk of falling victim to lions.
Giraffes eat the leaves and buds from bushes and trees. Their favorite food is acacia leaves, which grow on thorny branches. To avoid the thorns, the giraffe wraps its long tongue around the leaves and strips them off the branches without using its lips. The tongue is uniquely designed for this purpose: it is nearly 22 inches long, and is black on the end to protect it from sunburn. The leaves are swallowed before they have been completely chewed. Like cows, giraffes will bring the leaves up again to chew at a later time, when they are resting.
Even baby giraffes are large. At six feet tall, a newborn giraffe is taller than the average adult human. Within an hour of birth, it stands and begins to take milk from its mother—although it may be months before it is prepared to run with the herd. By the time it is a year old, a giraffe will be nearly ten feet tall.
Giraffes live in limited areas within Africa, always on the open plains. They are never seen in dense forests or deserts. Loosely organized herds can number anywhere from two to fifty, with individual giraffes freely wandering from herd to herd. Over a few months time, giraffes can cover hundreds of miles searching for food.
Green Light. People are fascinated by giraffes, and giraffes dont give people any reason to hurt them. They are not hunted for their sins or horns, they do not bother farmers crops, and they do not hunt captive livestock. If people can stay out of the giraffes way as well as the giraffe has stayed out of peoples way, the future of giraffes should remain bright.