The catwalk models of the bush, giraffes are the world’s tallest animal. They also have one of nature’s oddest hearts – over a foot long, weighing up to 11 kilos, producing the highest blood pressure in the world at 240/160! They are gentle engaging creatures with a tendency to follow safari vehicles with their slow lingering gaze. Characteristic Surprisingly the giraffe’s elongated neck contains only the same number of vertebrae as a human and has special veins and blood valves to prevent excess blood flow to the brain, when it lowers its head to drink. Giraffes generally splay their forelegs to drink – this leaves them particularly vulnerable, so, for this and other reasons, they don’t tend to drink for long. Fortunately, they can survive without drinking for extended periods because they absorb the majority of their moisture from the leaves on which they feed and on condensation. The preferred cuisine of these very tall ruminants is the leaves of the dangerously thorny acacia tree. Their tongue, lips and pallet are specially adapted to withstand injury from the lethal looking thorns and their prehensile tongues are black rather than pink to protect against sunburn. Isn’t nature just amazing! They sleep very little, mostly standing up in few minute snatches. However they sometimes sit/lie down to rest as we witnessed in the Masai Mara when we happened upon a group of seven or eight adult giraffe lying down relaxing, albeit with necks and heads erect to ensure continued blood supply to the brain. Given that they can only sit/lie down for about 30 minutes at a stretch (forgive the pun) it is quite a rare sight! To avoid alarming them, we tiptoed around them as best we could in an enormous 4×4 safari vehicle! Giraffes are nomadic in nature rather than territorial and, though quite gregarious, do not form strong bonds with others of their kind. However they do form loose open herds and mothers with calves, will form nursery herds. Males seek to establish greater breeding rights through dominance contests which include “necking” in which the combatants swing their necks at each other in an attempt to land blows with their heads and funny looking horns (ossicones.) Thankfully most (but not all) dominance contests do not lead to serious injury. Best Place to Find Them Giraffes tend to inhabit savannahs and open woodland. They are to be found in most if not all game reserves and national parks though there is some variation in the species of giraffe as between the various geographical locations. The main subspecies of giraffe are the Rothchild (found mostly around the Lake Baringo area in Kenya and in Eastern Uganda), Masai (found in Southern Kenya and Tanzania), Reticulated (found in NorthEastern Kenya) and Thornicroft (found in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.) Here’s looking at you kid!!