Baby giraffe are the cutest thing you could see on the African savannah. While a famous giraffe keeps giving birth at Animal Adventure Park, there’s so much more to discover when viewing giraffe in the wild.
Amazingly, giraffe give birth standing up. The baby giraffe drops head first onto the ground from a height of almost two metres – how is that for an entrance into the world!
That’s what happens to every giraffe. The mother spreads her legs and the baby literally plops out and thuds against the savannah.
The world’s most famous giraffe is called April and she lives in a zoo. Her births are streamed live on YouTube and she’s become a bit of an Internet sensation.
It’s very different giving birth in the wild, with lions prowling nearby and no vet to watch over proceeding. In fact, it’s one of Africa’s most spectacular sightings.
Here are 22 facts about baby giraffe in the wild, helping you understand these magnificent creatures.
1. Baby giraffe are 15 months in the making
Giraffe have one of the longest gestation periods in the animal kingdom. Nine months is a long time, but imagine 15 months!
Two other African giants take even longer. Rhinos have a gestation period of 15 – 16 months while elephants have the longest of all mammals (22 months). That makes sense though, as elephants are the largest living land mammals.
2. Giraffe give birth standing up
It’s a remarkable sight. 🙂
Check this video to see what happens.
3. Baby giraffe come out in the superman position
Okay, they’re not wearing a cape or anything like that. The babies come out front feet first, with their neck and head stretched over the knees, as if they were flying through the air.
4. A two meter drop into life
Giraffe are the tallest animals in the world so the newborn has quite some way to travel. The superman position helps to break the fall a little. As it emerges the baby giraffe stretches out towards the ground, so the fall isn’t as dramatic as it could be.
5. If a giraffe gave birth when sitting down the baby would be squashed
It’s very rare for giraffe not to be standing. They almost never lie down as this makes them vulnerable to all the predators. Giraffe like April might lie down because they are in a zoo. But out on the savannah there are lions around, so giraffe even sleep stood up.
Giving birth to a baby that is already two metres long poses a unique challenge. If the giraffe gave birth while seated, there wouldn’t be enough room for the newborn to come out. That incredibly long neck would be bent or fractured as it came out.
6. Newborn baby giraffe weigh 60 kg!
The newly arrived giraffe is two metres long as well. That’s one of the largest babies in the animal world, although nowhere close to the largest baby there is. Blue whale babies weigh three tons (3000 kg) at birth, then add on an extra 100 kg a day for their first year in the world.
7. A stood up birth is a genius piece of natural evolution
It may look like a bungee jump gone wrong, but there is innovation behind it all.
Such a dramatic fall severs the umbilical cord. While April the giraffe could be assisted by vets, there’s no such support out on the savannah.
The fall also immediately tears the amniotic sac. So in one swift move the baby giraffe is completely disentangled from her mother.
8. Bumping its head brings the giraffe to life
If that wasn’t all, a bump to the head helps to kick-start the giraffe’s internal systems. The big shock literally wakes up the calf and starts its respiratory system. So without the fall the giraffe would never breathe.
9. Why do giraffe have 50 cm tongues?
Partly these long tongues are for giving kisses to tourists at animal parks. Only kidding. 🙂 The remarkable 50 cm tongues are perfect for grabbing food off tree branches. They are strong and long, able to wrap around food and pull it off.
There’s another reason. A mother uses her long tongue to clean all the birth juices off her calf.
10. Baby giraffe can stand and walk within 30 minutes
There’s no waiting around for these animals. And rightly so. An animal that can’t stand or run is going to be snatched up pretty quickly. All those birth juices give off a scent and it’s not long before hyenas and big cats are sniffing around the birth site.
Amazingly, giraffe can stand pretty much from the moment they are born. All healthy calves can walk within 30 minutes of being in the world. Unhealthy calves don’t make it unfortunately. Within 24 hours they will probably be eaten.
11. Giraffe take around 24 hours before they can run
Have you ever seen a giraffe run? It’s an enchanting sight, with long loping strides across the wilderness.
Newborn calves are quick to learn and are up and running within 24 hours. That’s pretty essential when you are living with lions.
12. Giraffe horns aren’t visible immediately
Look closely at any giraffe and you’ll see two protruding little horns on their head. These are known as ossicones. When inside their mother, these baby giraffe horns are folded flat so as to not get in the way. It takes a few hours before they unfold themselves and stand proudly upon the newborn.
13. Baby giraffe have muted colourings on their coats
Did you know that all the giraffe sub species have a different coat of patterns and markings? Read more fascinating facts about giraffe here.
Baby giraffe look very pale in comparison. Although you can make out the pattern, the intense colouring won’t develop until they become adults.
14. Giraffe form towers
A mother usually gives birth on her own, in a quiet part of the savannah. Then she rejoins the tower. Yep, a group of giraffe isn’t known as a herd, it’s a tower.
This is one of the best collective nouns for groups of animals and a nice piece of safari knowledge to impress a guide.
15. A baby giraffe doubles in height during its first year
Even though a newborn has a long neck, it is about to get a lot longer. In comparison to the size of their bodies, babies have much shorter necks than the adults.
After 12 months of life the giraffe will have doubled in height. Most of this new found height is on the neck. It’s essential for giraffe to first grow tall and then grow fat. Well, if they didn’t grow tall they couldn’t reach the tree branches they feed from.
16. Giraffe raise their young in daycare groups
They probably don’t call them daycare groups or kindergartens, but that’s essentially what they are.
Mothers band together, taking turns to look after the youngsters. One mother will look over the daycare group, while the others are out feeding and foraging.
17. The men don’t get involved
Males and fathers don’t play any part in bringing up baby giraffe. However, giraffe towers do travel together so the males have a security role to play, defending the babies against predators.
18. Baby giraffe leave their daycare at two years old
Youngsters stay with their mothers for the first 18 – 24 months. After that they usually leave the tower and set off on their own.
However, the maternal bond remains strong, particularly between mother and daughter. Giraffe will regularly return to their mother and travel with her for a few days or weeks.
19. Once grown a giraffe has a 12 kg heart
Once fully grown a giraffe has one of the most staggering organs in the animal kingdom. Just imagine, a heart that weighs 12 kg. In comparison, the average human heart weighs around 310 grams!
Such an incredible heart is necessary to pump blood more than two metres to the brain. The blood rushes around at such intense pressure a giraffe needs special artery walls to stop its blood vessels from popping.
20. Male giraffe are ready to be fathers aged six…but they have to wait
Males reach sexual maturity by six years old but it’s unlikely they will get a chance to mate until they are well into their teens.
Competition is tough and males usually need to win a few neck to neck battles to earn the right to mate.
21. Females are ready to have their own babies aged four
Female giraffe are ready when they are just four years old. Just imagine, you’ve only been in the world for 48 months and now you spend 15 months developing a new life!
22. Baby giraffe numbers are dropping 40%!
There has been a 40% decline in the global giraffe population over the last 30 years. 40%! 🙁
Giraffe are now vulnerable on the IUCN list.
While April the giraffe has helped many people understand the giraffe’s life cycle, she is a captive animal kept behind bars. It’s essential we recognise the conservation challenges in Africa and give our support to wild baby giraffe as well.