Somali or Reticulated Giraffe
Scientific Name: Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata
Somali Giraffe Description
Well known for their giant spots and white boarders between them is the Somali Giraffe. They are very large animals and it would be hard to miss them anywhere. Chances are you have seen them in captivity as most zoos have these species on display. If you are lucky enough to take part in a safari though you will always remember seeing them in the wild.
This is one species of giraffe that has spots that cover the entire body. Many of them are white or cream in color from the knee down. The coloring of this one actually gets into darker shades of brown and even some red as you get closer to the feet.
Somali Giraffe Anatomy
The overall anatomy of any giraffe is completely amazing. It is one that researchers love to evaluate because it is so very different from that of any other animal in the world. They have a very large size when it comes to both their weight and their height. Yet they are able to make it all work for them.
The complexity of the neck so that they can drink without blood rushing to the brain is the most fascinating element of their anatomy. They can also move at speeds up to 35 miles per hour when it is necessary to do so. Most of the time though you will see these animals with very small heads moving around at a slow pace, eating and being curious about their surroundings.
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Somali Giraffe Evolution
So how did we come to know the Somali Giraffe as it is today? They evolved at some point from other species that have been dated back about twelve million years. At the same time though there is evidence to point in the direction that they further evolved less than one million years ago.
In the past giraffes were physically more like the body design of cows and deer. It may be hard to picture that in your mind now though when you think about their size. Yet it is possible that they once had moderate sized necks. Darwin is the founder of the idea that the neck grew out of the need for feeding from higher up trees than other animals in order to survive. Only time will tell if that was actually the case or not.
Somali Giraffe Behavior
Why are Somali Giraffes often seen with birds contently riding on their backs? These birds aren’t getting a free ride and they certainly aren’t interacting with the animals on a personal level. Instead, the animals tolerate each other for mutual benefits. For example the birds are able to get parasites and flies from the body of the giraffes. They in turn don’t have to worry about such problems as much as they otherwise would.
You will find the Somali Giraffes living in small herds and what is interesting is that they can end up with only one sex in a given herd. They do seem to change the mix up often though so there is always lots going on within the dynamics of any given herd. They females tend to interact well with each but the males keep their distance. They do seem to come around though when they are interested in the possibility of mating.
This is the only species of giraffe that seems to be extremely territorial. While they do move around like other species, they will heavily mark their territory which can span more than 50 square miles. They want to keep other herds of giraffes from coming in to compete for the same food. This becomes more difficult all the time though with their natural environment being depleted.
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Somali Giraffe Habitat and Distribution
You will find some herds of Somali Giraffes in certain areas of Kenya – mainly up North. You will also find them around the South end of Ethiopia. The majority though live in Somalia though which is where they happen to get their name from.
Somali Giraffe Diet and Feeding Habits
Their diet primarily consists of bark from trees, twigs, and leaves that are high off the ground. They do very well in the rainy season when such foods are plentify. They won’t need water for several weeks during that period of time. They don’t need much of it in the dry season though, just every few days. They can survive on pine needles during the dry season.
You may have heard stories about Somali Giraffes eating the remains of kills from predators. This isn’t a myth but something that has been occasionally documented. It is an amazing situation and one without any real answers to it. They can’t chew up meat but they can use their thick tongues to pull it off a carcass and then swallow it. This isn’t something you will see all the time though in the wild.
The thickness of their tongue is why they can feed so well on the acacia in spite of the thorns. This is what a large portion of their diet consist of for many months out of the year. These grazing animals can spend as much as 18 hours a day consuming food at a leisurely pace.
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Somali Giraffe Reproduction
Females are mature about 5 years of age with it being about 8 years for the males. Many of the male don’t get to mate though before they are 10 years of age due to the aggressive nature of the battles between them for the right to be able to. A male must beat out other males in physical contests that involve their heavy necks if they want to mate.
It is a very long time from mating before the young are born – almost 16 months. While mating is something they can do all year long it is mainly an activity reserved for the rainy season. The females will be on their own with their young for the first month or so. Then the entire group of females will work to keep it healthy and thriving.
While the mothers do their best to protect the young offspring it is very difficult during that period of time when they are on their own with them. They have to eat large amounts in order to survive and to produce milk for their young. Predators take any opportunities they can get in order to come in and kill one of the young for a great meal.
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Somali Giraffe Predators
There are many predators of the young out there, which is why more than half of them die before they are a year old. Common predators include lions, leopards, and even crocodiles. They usually won’t mess with a full grown adult but they will take any chance they get for a shot with the young. You have to remember these babies are born from 150 to 200 pounds and about six feet tall. They aren’t a nibble for a feast for these predators.
Humans continue to kill large numbers of Somali Giraffes too. While it is considered poaching, there isn’t enough in place to enforce those rules. Villagers reason that they need to hunt giraffes in order to eat. Without the meat from them they would starve. Hunters live the thrill of being able to kill an animal that very few have had the opportunity to take down.