The giraffe is the world’s tallest terrestrial animal and thrives on a diet of fresh greens. These curious creatures tower above the bushveld and, despite their gangly appearance and awkward gait, they move with ease through their environment. They survive in arid landscapes, savanna and open plains; and vary in size and colour depending on their region.
The next time you’re in a game viewer and come across a giraffe devouring greenery, take a moment to observe their eating habits. Here are 4 facts about a giraffe’s eating habits that will ensure you have a deeper understanding of their dietary habits.
1. Giraffe doesn’t need to compete for food.
Giraffe is browsers that feed off fresh shoots and leaves, and their height advantage means they have access to plenty of foliage that other herbivores cannot reach. There’s not much competition for food sources with these delightfully curious terrestrial animals. The only other animal that can reach into the giraffe feeding zone is the elephant. The pachyderms stretch upwards and reach branches with their trunks, also allowing them to grapple lush greens outside of the zone of other browsers. The male giraffe is always in an enviable position given that are almost always taller than their female counterparts!
2. Giraffe eats old bones.
When herbivores animals eat bones, it is commonly referred to as osteophagia. The reason for digesting such unpalatable items is purely to supplement their diet with calcium and phosphorus. If their diet lacks in nutrients giraffe will bend down to the ground to scrounge for old bones. They will then chew/twirl the bones in their mouth to extract as many minerals as possible.
3. Giraffe’s favourite food is acacia. But acacia trees talk.
The bushveld is dotted with African acacia trees which have juicy leaves and a thorny spine. Giraffe uses their prehensile tongue to grip the leaves and extract the greenery without disturbing the thorny bits. Because this is their favourite meal, it means that our tall creatures tend to journey towards belts of acacia. Acacia will release an excess of tannins when under threat from overfeeding, and this compound leaves the greenery tasting incredibly bitter. The other trees will recognise the tannin release as an alarm system and follow suit. Giraffe activate the natural alarm system in acacia trees – a truly fascinating fact!
4. When a giraffe drinks water, it’s quite a process.
Giraffe only drink every few days and gain most of their moisture from their herbivorous diet. When they do drink they approach their water source with caution. They scan their environment for potential threats, hesitate, stand for a while and then make a decision to drink. The giraffe will open its legs quite wide, bend its knees and lower its neck to lap up water, which leaves them in quite a vulnerable position and at the mercy of predators.