Giraffes - The True Gentle Giants of The Wild
A giraffe has the highest blood pressure of any living creature. Ironically, they always look calm and unhurried, without the slightest sign of being stressed. Their calm demeanors also belie the fact that they only require an incredible 5 – 30 minutes of sleep in a 24-hour cycle!
Usually, their arrival is so quiet that only the rustle of a nearby tree reveals their presence as they casually select and pluck their juicy greens. At Kruger River Villas, we have a soft spot for giraffes, and surprise visits from them are always a highlight (no pun intended). Giraffes are the true gentle giants of the bush and it is such a privilege to see them in their natural habitat. They might enjoy watching humans too because guests often find themselves the object of a visiting giraffe's curious stare as they casually chew their leafy meals.
If you have ever been in the company of a giraffe, you'll no doubt have noticed their unique spots and hairy horns – not to mention their gorgeous long eyelashes! Male giraffes often use their horns, known as ossicones, to fight, but to the human observer, a giraffe looks as graceful and civilized when it fights, as it does when it runs. Giraffes also use their necks when they fight and the blows they deliver to their opponents are surprisingly forceful. Considering that an adult giraffe can grow to a height of just under 3m, it is hard to believe that those long, powerful necks also only have 7 vertebrae, like other mammals.
The gestation period of a giraffe is just over 15 months, and a newborn giraffe will stand within an hour of delivery. Although a giraffe will only begin to eat leaves after the first week of its life, it will drink from its mother for 4 – 6 months. Mom will also pull leaves down for a little one until they are big enough to reach their own. Having a 45cm tongue helps reach leaves too, and because giraffes spend most of the day eating, their tongues are exposed to UV Rays for extended periods – hence the black pigmentation of their tongues, resulting from Melanin. Giraffes can be found in small groups, but it is not uncommon for them to be solitary either. These amazing animals have a life expectancy of about 28 years in the wild.
The Shocking Reality
In Marloth Park and neighboring Kruger National Park, we have the pleasure of seeing giraffes almost daily. However, the shocking reality is that giraffes are facing what conservationists call 'silent extinction'. The world giraffe population is said to have decreased by 40% over the past 3 decades, and their numbers continue to plummet. It is estimated that there are less than 100 000 giraffes remaining in the wild. Activists have been raising the alarm for some time, and the call to declare giraffes as officially endangered is becoming urgent. Sadly, at the time of writing this post, the call remains unheeded.
It will be a sad day indeed if these gentle creatures exist only in history books and old photos, for not only will their extinction be a terrible indictment on the cruelty and negligence of our own species, but these amazing animals will be sorely missed. They are worthy of our admiration and our protection.
That is what makes Marloth Park an internationally sought-after holiday destination... our wild animals are free, yet protected within the confines of a natural territory that is set apart from the chaos and dangers of civilization. It is one of the very few places in the world where you can expect a voluntary visit from a wild animal right in your garden. At Kruger River Villas we cherish the privilege and hope against all the odds that giraffes will receive the protection they so desperately need.
If you have not recently enjoyed a visit from wild animals in your garden, we highly recommend that you book your stay. We hope to see you soon!