Everyone loves a giraffe. It’s one of the most sought after sightings on safari. People are often surprised at how tall they are. A fully-grown male can stand up to five meters tall. Giraffes have a specially adapted joint at the base of their head, which enables them to tilt their head vertically. This, combined with a 35cm tongue, which is dexterous enough to pluck small leaves from a thorn protected branch, gives them a clear advantage over other browsers.
At their height the view must be incredible, not to mention the advantage of looking out for predators. It’s not surprising that you will often find other herbivores such as zebras and wildebeest hanging out near them. Even humans use giraffe to help find predators. If they are staring intently in one direction you can be sure that there is something worth investigating.
Their height also comes with disadvantages. Anyone who’s ever watched and waited patiently for a giraffe to take a drink, will know how slow and laborious the task can be. Once a giraffe is down to drink they are extremely vulnerable and so they make ultra sure that there are no predators lurking nearby before getting down to have a drink.
To counteract a flood of blood to the brain when a giraffe bends down to drink, there is a network of small capillaries at the base of its head which dilate and constrict, to control the flow of blood. A giraffes blood pressure in its body can reach double that of a humans, but the blood pressure in it’s brain, with this adaption, remains constant and about the same as a humans.
Being the tallest animal on earth requires many adaptions for survival. Mashatu is home to a healthy population of giraffes and it’s not unusual to see groups of these tall and graceful animals dotted across the diverse and magical Mashatu landscapes.
Images, video and text by: Janet Kleyn