The giraffe is one of the iconic and spectacular land mammals of the African plains. They usually inhabit savannas, grasslands and open woodlands. In fact, the Angolan giraffe can be found in desert environments.

The trouble is that these habitats will limit their food choices. However, as these majestic beast have evolved under these somewhat harsh conditions, the giraffe is able to make the most of what's available.

Giraffes prefer to eat Acacia, Commiphora, Combretum and open Terminalia woodlands over denser environments like Brachystegia woodlands. Giraffes also browse on the twigs of trees, preferring those from the genera Acacia, Commiphora and Terminalia as they are important sources of calcium and protein to sustain the giraffe's growth rate. They also feed on shrubs, grass and fruit.

The giraffe does not browse thorny trees such as the acacia at random. Instead it bites off individual shoots and bunches of leaves between the thorns. Using its lips and tongue - which may be up to 45 cm long - it pulls its chosen morsel into its mouth and coats in sticky saliva making it safer to swallow.

Cleverly, the giraffe is able to quickly strip trees and shrubs which naturally have fewer thorns, by running the entire length of smaller branches through its teeth!

Amazingly, a giraffe can still manage to eat around 34 kg (75 lb) of foliage daily. Be that as it may, the giraffe requires less food than many other herbivores, because the foliage it eats has more concentrated nutrients and also because the giraffe has a more efficient digestive system. If food is particularly scarce, giraffes may even chew the bark off branches.

Although herbivorous, the giraffe has been known to visit carcasses and lick dried meat off bones.

During the wet season, food is abundant and giraffe herds are more spread out, while during the dry season, they gather around the remaining evergreen trees and bushes. Mothers tend to feed in open areas, presumably to make it easier to detect predators although this may reduce their feeding efficiency.

As a ruminant, the giraffe first chews its food, then swallows it for processing and then visibly passes the half-digested cud up the neck and back into the mouth to chew again.

The animal's faeces come in the form of small pellets.

It is common for a giraffe to salivate while feeding.

When it has access to water, a giraffe drinks at intervals no longer than three days.

Giraffes have a great effect on the trees that they feed on, delaying the growth of young trees for some years and giving "waistlines" to trees that are too tall. Giraffes mostly feed during the first and last hours of daytime. Between these hours, giraffes mostly stand and ruminate. Rumination is a part of normal digestion, in which the animal brings up swallowed food, chews it, and swallows it again. This aids the animal by allowing it to eat quickly and chew later while it is resting.

For related articles click onto the following links:

No comments: