A mother kicking her baby…
But in the world of giraffes it’s true. A giraffe gives birth standing up and the newborn falls almost six feet to the ground! The baby is somewhat protected during the fall by the sac it is enveloped in.
Yet despite such an abrupt and dramatic entry into the world, a newborn calf is in for more. The mother giraffe first lovingly lowers her head to clean her baby. And then… she lifts her long leg and kicks the newborn. As the baby lies curled up, the mother continues to kick the calf until the little giraffe, still trembling and exhausted, pushes its limbs outward and for the first time stands on its feet. Then, there comes another kick from mom that knocks the baby down. But the youngster quickly recovers and stands up. The mother has taught her baby the first lesson of survival – learn to quickly get up and to run with the pack, or become prey to lions, leopards or other predators.
Unless it learns this lesson immediately, it has no chance at life. As it is, only about 25% of newborn giraffes survive to adulthood. But the little giraffe can stand up and run within an hour after birth. Of course, little is a matter of perspective. This baby actually stands about six feet tall when born, and can weigh in at about 150 to 200 pounds.
Giraffe have no formal breeding seasons as they are designed to be able to shift feeding patterns in order to maintain a high nutrient diet throughout most of the year. It has been observed that calving can be synchronized in herds to provide safety in numbers against predators.
Giraffes can survive in the wild for about 20 to 25 years with the right conditions. Unfortunately, as of 2014, there were only about 80,000 giraffes left in all of Africa, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. This is a major drop from 1999, when there were an estimated 140,000 giraffes on the continent.
It was once thought that there was one single living species of giraffe with numerous subspecies, but research into the mitochondrial and nuclear DNA have revealed four to six distinct extant species that include Northern Giraffe, Southern Giraffe, Masai Giraffe and Reticulated Giraffe.
There are a variety of wonderful places to go in search of these lanky beauties, including Etosha National Park in Namibia. Flat, open spaces with thorny acacia trees is ideal giraffe country, especially around watering holes, where you will also find many other animals including impala, zebra and oryx. Explore the world of giraffes in Etosha National Park on our Namibia Flying Safari.
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