Photo by: Thomas Retterath (Moment Getty Images)

Giraffe is the tallest mammal; with very long neck, short upstanding mane, and high shoulders that slope steeply to the hindquarters. It is called Àgùnfôn in Yoruba. The end of the Pliocene epoch (2.5-6 million years ago) saw a number of long necked giraffids evolve, subsequently migrating out of Eurasia into Africa by way of what is now Ethiopia. Of the nine genera of fossil girrafids and five species of giraffe that lived in Africa, only 2 species survive to this day: the giraffe and Okapi, a close relative found majorly in central Africa. This even-toed ungulate belonging to the family Giraffidae, Giraffa camelopardalis, is the biggest in the suborder Ruminantia. The various subspecies of giraffe differ slightly in coloration and patterning.

The Nigerian giraffe, subspecies peralta, endemic to the southwestern region, has large orange-brown spots on its body that fade to white on its legs. This subspecies survive only in the wild. Giraffe population numbering about 200 has currently increased due to targeted conservation programs. The giraffe is non-territorial and sociable, forming loose herds with no permanent members in very variable home ranges of between 5 and 650 square kilometers. Adults average 964kg in weight and stand a total of 5.7 m from the ground to their horns: 3.3 m at the shoulders with a long neck of 2.4 m, made nevertheless of only seven bones, like that of the human neck. Females are shorter and lighter. The giraffe head has a pair of short frontal horns covered with skin and hair, a median horn, sometimes only a knob, on the forehead, and sometimes a pair of very small horns on the occiput.

Gestation period in Giraffe is between 14 and 16 months, after which a 1.8m tall calf is born. If there are a lot of calves in the herd, one female may take care of all of them until they get older. Sexual maturity is reached at 3-4 years but bulls (male giraffes) may wait, because of the system of hierarchy among them, till they are 7 years old, before mating. Lifespan of the giraffe average 25 years in the wild, an unusually long one for a ruminant.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer