Giraffes are magnificent creatures that tower over the open plains, grasslands, and woodlands of Africa, with their extremely long necks and legs, making them the tallest mammals in the world. These social animals peacefully roam the savannah in large herds, foraging for food at the tops of trees. While they are handsome and impressive, they are also vulnerable and have been vastly under-researched, despite being among the most recognized animals of the savannah.
Recent research has shown that giraffes are not just one species with nine subspecies, as previously thought, but rather four distinct species. These species include the Northern giraffe, Southern giraffe, Masai giraffe, and Reticulated giraffe!
The Northern giraffe has three subspecies: the Nubian giraffe, the Kordofan giraffe, and the West African giraffe found in Western, Central, and Eastern Africa. The Nubian giraffe is the first Northern Giraffe subspecies ever recorded and has large, rectangular, chestnut-brown patches surrounded by an off-white color, without spots on their legs. The Kordofan giraffe has a yellowish-brown to blackish-brown coat with wide and irregular pale markings extending down its legs, while the West African giraffe can now only be found in Niger, with light tan-colored spots and pale cream-colored legs.
The Southern Giraffe.
The Southern giraffe features two subspecies: the South African giraffe, found in South Africa, southern Botswana, and Zimbabwe, and the Angolan giraffe, found in central Botswana, most parts of Namibia, and some areas of Zimbabwe. The South African giraffe has star or diamond-shaped markings in various shades of brown surrounded by a light tan color, while the Angolan giraffe is relatively light in color with large, uneven, and irregular light brown patches surrounded by a pale cream color.
The Masai giraffe is widely seen in Kenya and Tanzania and is the largest population of giraffes in Africa. They have a distinct dark brown color against a reddish/orange background in their markings, which are jagged with shapes resembling veined leaves. Their legs are partially covered by patterns but remain a dark color.
The Reticulated giraffe is found in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, with the Kenya population being the best protected. They have brown-orange markings well defined by a network of white lines in a brick-like or netted pattern, called a reticulated pattern, which gives them their name.
Overall, giraffes are unique and incredible animals that play a vital role in their ecosystem. It is important to recognize and protect their distinct species and subspecies, as they are in danger and need our help to ensure their survival in the wild.
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