The Masai Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi), also known as the Kilimanjaro Giraffe is the largest subspecies of nine subspecies of the giraffe family. Masai giraffes can be distinguished from Reticulated Giraffes because they have jagged spots on their bodies instead of polygonal liver-coloured spots.
Originally, the Masai giraffe lived throughout Africa, however, due to loss of habitat and deforestation, they are only found in the savannas of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Tanzania.
Masai Giraffe Characteristics
A female Masai giraffe has thick head hair, however, a male Masai giraffe is bald on top. Both males and female Masai giraffes have skin-covered horns called ossicones. Masai Giraffes have the usual long legs and a long neck with special valves used to control the flow of blood to the head.
Masai Giraffes coat is covered in irregular star-shaped patches and is buff-coloured below the knee. As with all giraffes, the spots on the coat act like human fingerprints, no two patterns are the same and they can be used to identify an individual.
The male Masai Giraffe grows to a height of 19 feet (5.5 metres), and the females 16 feet (4.8 metres). The males weigh 2475 – 4275 pounds (1100 – 1900 kilograms) and the females 1575 – 2700 pounds (700 – 1200 kilograms). Masai Giraffes tongues are 18 inches in length and their lips are long and prehensile. Masai giraffes can run to speeds of 35 miles per hour.
Masai Giraffe Diet
Masai giraffes are diurnal and live in small groups. Masai giraffes feed 16 – 20 hours each day. They consume large quantities of leaves, twigs, sprouts, flowers, fruits and bark. Masai Giraffes mainly feed off whistling-thorn acacia trees, using their long lips and tongues to reach between the thorns to extract the leaves.
Masai giraffes have a four- chambered stomach and can chew their own cud. If fresh vegetation is available in large quantities they can go without water for weeks, extracting it from their food. Male Masai giraffes eat from the top branches, the females from the bottom branches.
Masai Giraffe Reproduction
There is no seasonal breeding season for the giraffe. A Masai Giraffe can breed at the age of 4 years. About 50 to 75% of the calves die in their first few months due to predators. A single calf is born after a 14 – 15 month gestation period. The calf is 6 feet tall when born and grows rapidly. During the first month of its life it stays with its mother. After this period it will join a group of calves and will be looked after by a ‘babysitter’ cow. The calf will remain in this nursery for one year. Masai Giraffes have a life span of 25 – 30 years.
Masai Giraffe Predators
Lions, hyenas and poachers are the main enemies of the Masai giraffe. Their only defence is their speed and their powerful kick that can render a lion unconscious and in some cases even decapitate it.
Masai Giraffe Subspecies
The Masai or Kilimanjaro Giraffe (G.c. tippelskirchi) is one of nine subspecies in the giraffe family, which includes:
Reticulated or Somali Giraffe (G.c. reticulata)
Masai or Kilimanjaro Giraffe (G.c. tippelskirchi)
Angolan or Smoky Giraffe (G.c. angolensis)
Kordofan Giraffe (G.c. antiquorum)
Nubian Giraffe (G.c. camelopardalis)
Rothschild Giraffe or Baringo Giraffe or Ugandan Giraffe (G.c. rothschildi)
South African Giraffe (G.c. giraffa)
Thornicroft or Rhodesian Giraffe (G.c. thornicrofti)
West African or Nigerian Giraffe