21 October 2014

Giraffe Kisses

While in Nairobi my friends also took me to the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife; more well-know as the Giraffe Center.

No adoptions here but lots of incredible one-on-one time with beautiful giraffes! One of the Giraffe Center's roles is the conservation and expanding the gene pool of the Rothschild Giraffe. You can see the difference between the Rothschild and Reticulated giraffes in my previous posts:

  • Regular shaped spots with clear white outlining
  • Pattern often extends down the leg

  • Less regular pattern than the Reticulated; splotchy like the Masai giraffe
  • Paler coat than the Masai giraffe
  • White stocking; below the knees there is no pattern on their legs
  • Only giraffe sub species with five ossicones (ie the bumpy horny doo dads) on its head
  • Taller than many other sub species at 6 meters (20 feet)

Not different though are their appetites and tongues! At the Center you can hand feed pellets to the giraffes and get your hand slimy and slobbered on by their long, black tongues.

I learned a lot of interesting things about giraffes here. For example, unlike the elephant which really does have a long memory, giraffes have limited short term memory and forget things within minutes. heir memories are so short that after five minutes of running away from a predator they'll forget why they're running and stop to graze again.

Even if a lion catches up it's apparently not much of a problem. Giraffe leg bones are solid, they have no marrow. I was able to handle a leg bone and it was shockingly heavy. They use these solid legs for kicking other animals. A well-placed kick is not just a deterrent but could even kill another animal.

Possibly most amazing is that giraffes can delay giving birth for up to three months. I've never bee pregnant but my first reaction to hearing this was horror. With a normal gestation period of 15 months (!) why on earth would any creature want to delay that?! So they can give birth in a safe, predator free, hopefully vegetation rich area. That did not even occur to me. Brilliant.

Kisses from Lynn

The Center is home to nine giraffes, two bulls and seven cows that have lived there for their entire life. They do breed but calves are released into the wild at the age two. The Center is partially responsible for raising the amount of Rothschilds in the wild from just a few hundred to 1200...which still makes them endangered. Because the nine have been here for their entire lives though they are very accustomed to people and eagerly eat pellets from your hand; just be sure to hold the pellet properly or you could lose a finger!

And then there's Lynn. Lynn is 18 and is one of the friendlier giraffes; she gives kisses. If you hold a pellet gently between your lips she'll use her mobile, flexible lips to take it from you. Thankfully, on many levels, there is no tongue involved! Something I've never realized though is that giraffes have very whiskery chins. So no slobber but I did get a little whisker burn!

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