June 2021

The long and the short of it

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The long and the short of it

Long legs, long necks and long tongues – everything a giraffe needs to ensure it gets the leaves and buds on trees that no other animal can reach.

They can stretch their head and neck to a near vertical position. They use their extremely dexterous tongue as well as the ridged roof of their mouth to grasp leaves and strip them carefully from a thorny branch. They prefer the leaves and shoots from Vachellia or Senegalia (formerly Acacia) trees.

But when it comes to drinking their neck is actually too short to reach the ground, so they have to shuffle, spread their legs and bend down in an awkward position that makes them vulnerable to predators. Fortunately giraffes only need to drink once every few days, as they obtain most of their water from all the foliage they eat.

Photograph of giraffe feeding by Jennifer Conaghan

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
Author / Guest Guide