African Giraffes

African giraffes can be found throughout large areas of the sub-Saharan portion of the continent. It is the tallest of all land mammals, with adult males reaching a height of 14 to 17 feet. The tallest recorded male was almost 20 feet high. Not many people will go on wildlife safaris just to spot these creatures, but you will see them on just about every safari whether it is southern African countries like South Africa or East Africa countries like Kenya and Tanzania. There are very few national parks, game reserves or private game ranches that have no giraffes. Some wildlife experts will go on a giraffe safari in southern Sudan or the northern Democratic Republic of Congo only to observe the rare Nubian giraffe. It is estimated that only about 250 of these species remain in the wild.

The African giraffes found in Kenya are the reticulated giraffe, the Maasai giraffe, and the Rothschild's giraffe. The reticulated is perhaps the most striking in appearance, with bright brownish-orange patches separated by bright white lines. This subspecies is found only in northern Kenya's semi-arid desert regions like Samburu and Buffalo Springs Reserves. It is also found in southern Ethiopia and Somalia. If you visit the Africa section of zoos, this is the type of giraffe you are most apt to see. The Maasai giraffe is found in southern Kenya (and across the border in Tanzania). Its spots are leaf-shaped. Sometimes called the Kilimanjaro giraffe, this sub-species is the subject of numerous classic photographs of Mount Kilimanjaro, as they stride majestically across the landscape with the mountain in the background. These shots will be taken at Amboseli National Park, which has the best views of the mountain that is actually located in Tanzania and can be included on safaris that span across both Kenya and Tanzania.

The Rothschild giraffe has blotchy spots with fuzzy white lines between them. It also has white "stockings." This is also a fairly rare giraffe, and became nearly extinct. In the 1970s, the owners of a colonial manor house near Nairobi National Park brought several of the animals to their estate (now called Giraffe Manor) for safekeeping. They have thrived and reproduced and the house is now an elegant and exclusive bed and breakfast inn where giraffes are apt to stick their heads in the windows and snatch fruit right off your plate. Today, many local schoolchildren will embark on a giraffe safari just to see these creatures at the Giraffe Center near Giraffe Manor. Here you can climb to a two-story platform where you can feed them by hand and learn facts about the like the fact that they have the same number of vertebrae in their long necks as humans (seven) and that their prehensile tongues are as long 21 inches. You can see Giraffe Manor from the Giraffe Center.

Other African giraffes include the Angolan or Smoky giraffe found in Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe ; the Kordofan giraffe found in Cameroon, the Central Africa Republic, and Chad; the South African giraffe found in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Mozambique; and the Thornicroft or Rhodesian giraffe found in Zambia; and the West African giraffe found in Niger.

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