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Giraffe - The Facts

Starting Life

What is the gestation period of a giraffe?
The average gestation period for giraffe is approximately 15 months (453-464 days).


Where and when do giraffe give birth?
Giraffe give birth in a ‘calving ground’ and mothers will often return to where they were born to have their own babies. Giraffe have no formal breeding seasons as they are designed to be able to shift feeding patterns in order to maintain a high nutrient diet throughout most of the year. Calving is often synchronized to provide safety in numbers against predators. Giraffe give birth standing up, requiring the newborn to fall just under 2 meters to the ground! Designed for such an abrupt entry into the world, a newborn calf can stand up and run within an hour of being born.


What is a baby giraffe called?

A baby giraffe is called a calf.


How many giraffe can be born and how big are they?
Usually only one calf is born although twins have been recorded. The average height at birth is just under 2 metres with a tendency for the females to be very slightly smaller than the males. A newborn calf weighs about 100kg. Newborn calves grow very quickly and can nearly double their height in the first year.


For how long will the giraffe rely on its mother’s milk?
A newborn giraffe will suckle its mother’s milk as soon as it can stand up. Calves are reliant on their mother’s milk for up to 9-12 months. Solid food (leaves) can be eaten from about 4 months at which time calves begin to ruminate.


What is the biggest threat to a baby giraffe and how can a mother protect them?
The first few months of a giraffe’s life are the most vulnerable; predators such as lions, hyenas, hunting dogs and leopards all see a baby giraffe as prey. The giraffe mothers are extremely protective and will meter out a powerful kick to any other animal that comes too close. During the first few days a newborn giraffe will be left sitting in grasses while the mother goes off to feed, but after a few weeks the youngster is introduced to the rest of the herd and nursery groups are formed where one mother will ‘keep watch’ while the others have a chance to go and find food.

When do giraffe ‘leave home’?
Male calves will leave their mothers at about 15 months and form all-male groups. The female juveniles however don’t leave until they are about 18 months old and stay in the same areas as the family herd they grew up in.