Giraffes have only seven vertebrae in the neck which is the same number as humans. Although we share this, their neck can be up to 8 feet long and weigh 500 pounds!
Status in the Wild
Reticulated giraffes are sexually dimorphic (with two distinct gender forms); males are taller and have a slightly different facial appearance. The males have protruding median ossicones (the hornlike knobs on their head) and can develop calcium deposits that form bumps on their skull as they age. The ground color for giraffes is white to buff. Spots are chestnut brown to almost black and vary in size and shape. They are unique to each individual. Spot patterns cover most of their body, but giraffes' underparts are lighter and more faintly spotted. The ground color appears as a network of lines between the spots from which they get their name: reticulated. The coat pattern not only serves as camouflage but also serves as "thermal windows": sites for complex blood vessel systems and large sweat glands. Their skin secretes up to 11 chemicals that produce a strong and unique scent that repels parasites and is suspected to have a sexual function. Giraffes have a very long neck, necessitating elastic blood vessels and valves to compensate for the sudden increase in blood pressure when the head is lowered. They have a long, gray prehensile (capable of grasping) tongue and flexible upper lips. Both sexes have a pair of short frontal ossicones. These are horns but made of ossified calcium and covered skin and hair. They are unique to giraffes and okapi. The nostrils have muscular openings, which giraffes can open and close to protect themselves against sandstorms and ants that inhabit trees they feed on. They have long eyelashes, and their forelimbs are slightly longer than the hindlimbs.
According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (last accessed March 28, 2013), the reticulated giraffe is the giraffe subspecies with the greatest population decline—about 80% from 28,000 to 4,700—in the past decade. Numbers have decreased due to many threats, including poaching (excessive illegal hunting), disease, degradation and loss of habitat, war and civil unrest, and the competition for resources from humans and their livestock. Current estimates (October 2013) by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation have the total population for all subspecies of giraffe at less than 80,000 individuals. According to ISIS, the reticulated giraffe is one of the more common species in captivity, with about 450 living in zoos around the world.
Adopt a Reticulated Giraffe
Researchers, government officials, and IUCN are working together to collect more data about giraffe populations to produce National Conservation Strategies and to show the importance and profile of giraffe conservation and spread awareness.
Listed as of "least concern" on the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). However, different subspecies are listed as "endangered," and new information suggests all may be becoming endangered. Giraffe: Giraffa camelopardalis, least concern; West African giraffe: G. c. peralta, endangered; Rothschild's giraffe: G. c. rothschildi, endangered