20 June 2023

Joburg Zoo and our passionate keepers are treating our giraffes this World Giraffe Day, which falls annually on 21 June.  These laid-back, lanky, and gentle species must be one of the most loved in the animal kingdom.  The day, which coincidentally falls during the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere (depending on which side of the world you are), is an apt time of the year in celebrating the tallest animal, with the longest neck.  The male’s neck reaches an incredible length of approximately 243cms and the female, around 213cms.

Here are some interesting facts about these sassy, cool looking animals:

  • Special feature of the Horns – Unlike other mammals, the giraffe has its main pair of horns present even in the embryo, formed of cartilage and a layer of skin and unattached to the skull. They lie flat and form no obstacle to birth but within a few days stand erect and appear prominent.
  • In the wild, because of their height and superior vision both day and night, they can see danger early and alert other animals. An integral part of the giraffe’s antipredator strategy is for the calves to grow fast.  As such, they spend a lot of their time lying or standing with relatively small amounts of movement, which enables them to focus their entire food intake toward growth.
  • They have a prehensile tongue which helps them to grasp and hold onto food, a meticulous, muscular control movement. A giraffe's tongue is also the strongest of any animal, and it can be an impressive 18 inches long.
  • They do not sleep like other animals but have power naps while standing throughout the day or night. In the wild, this is done due to predatory dangers.
  • Giraffes are not vocal animals. While they do have a larynx or voice box, their small lung capacity and narrow trachea make it difficult to produce enough airflow to vibrate their vocal cords.

The Johannesburg Zoo currently cares for four giraffes, named Madolo, a 10-year-old male and the father to Michelle.  Madolo is the tallest of the four and uses this to his advantage by getting the good stuff off the topmost branches.  Gia is an 11-year-old female and mom to Michelle.  Keepers say she’s a lady and eats elegantly and in no rush. Michelle is 4-years old female, very playful and gets excited when browse is brought to her.  Buhle, our 5-year-old female is gentle and shy.

Our keepers will be treating the giraffes with some crispy browse and a talk, on Wednesday, 21 June 2023 at 09h30 at the Giraffe enclosure.  Parking is available at the Jan Smuts Avenue entrance to the zoo.

World Giraffe Day is significant in raising awareness of the dangers and plights giraffes face in the wild.