The Living Edens-Etosha: In the Wild-Giraffe
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GiraffeThe Giraffe
Some animals, like an albatross, are distinguishable by a single unique body part -- in this case, wings. What stands out more than anything about a giraffe is a quality, more than any particular part. Everything about a giraffe is long. A giraffe is often almost 19 feet tall, making it the tallest animal on earth. Its legs alone are about six feet long. Its neck is even longer. Even a giraffe's tongue is just about two feet long.

What Else?
Of course, there are characteristics about the giraffe that make it different from other animals. Scientists used to believe that giraffes made no sound, but recently they've discovered that giraffes do make very quiet noises. The tan coat and irregular brown spots that cover a giraffe are definitely unusual, especially since no two giraffes have the same pattern. A giraffe also has a mane that runs the length of its neck, and horns and bumps upon its head. But almost everything about a giraffe's life is determined by its height.

Living, Eating, Drinking
Giraffes inhabit the grasslands of Etosha, travelling in packs of about five members. They eat grasses and from trees, using their necks to reach for treasured leaves. To eat, a giraffe swallows its food and then brings it back up to chew as cud, a lump of semi-digested paste. Giraffes actually have four stomachs, as cows do. It is not uncommon for a giraffe to chew its cud for hours at a stretch. Interestingly, a giraffe has the greatest chance of being attacked when it is drinking at a water hole. Normally, giraffes absorb most of the water they need from the food they eat. But when a giraffe needs to drink from a pool, it has to spread its legs wide so that its head can reach the water. In this position, a giraffe is hardly a match for an attacking lion.

Benefits of the High Life
Being tall helps a giraffe to see long distances, which can be useful for watching for predators. If a giraffe sees a dangerous animal -- like a lion, perhaps -- it will gallop away before the animal gets too near. Given its stilt-like legs, one might not expect a giraffe to run very fast, but at top speed, it can reach almost 35 miles per hour. Because they weigh less, younger giraffes actually run more quickly than adults do. An adult giraffe weighs in at about 3,000 pounds.


A Big Baby
How much does a baby giraffe weigh? Compared to any other animal, a baby giraffe is a giant, weighing 150 pounds and standing six feet tall when it drops out of its mother's womb. When it's born, a baby giraffe really does drop -- almost five feet to the ground. Only 10 hours later, the baby will be running with the other giraffes. Four or five years later, the giraffe is considered an adult.

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