By Evelyn Masaba
The giraffa camelopardalis camelopardis, or the rothschild giraffe, commonly known as the giraffe, is one of those under-appreciated wild animals found in Uganda. Apart from the tree-climbing lions of Ishasha, the Ugandan giraffe is unique to its home and cannot be easily found elsewhere apart from Uganda and Kenya, where they have lived for years.
The rothschild giraffe population has drastically reduced over the years, leaving an estimated number of 800 individuals. The giraffe lives in some of the most fertile parts of Uganda and Kenya, making it easy for people who practice farming to encroach on their habitats and sometimes attack them.
The rothschild giraffe is said to be a relative of the deer family, and science might soon prove that giraffes used to be shaped like deers centuries back before they evolved into the gentle giants they are today.
There are many attributes that make the rothschild giraffe stand out from the rest the giraffe family.
Standing at an estimated height of 20 feet tall, they are considered the tallest giraffes in their subspecies.
They can weigh up to an estimate of 2,500 pounds with the female giraffes being several pounds lighter than males.
The spots on their body are quite unique; they are brown patches with cream or white lines marking through the brown spots. Their long legs have fewer markings and stop at the top turning into a pure white spread from the kneecaps.
The rothschild giraffe has more horns — five more than its other relatives who usually have two. There are two in the regular place on top of the head, one in the middle, and two at the back and the first three are easier to notice.
They have very long necks although their vertebrae is the same length as that of a human.
Their senses are very acute, meaning that they can see even further than a normal person and have a strong sense of smell.
They are also attributed with averagely long tails that help to thwart flies off their bodies.
Their height is also attributed to their long legs and necks but the legs contribute a lot to the swiftness of the rothschild giraffe, making them very fast and agile. It is believed that they can easily match up with a cheetah in the wild just incase they are being chased around for prey.
Although this has not be proven, these giraffes are not an easy prey to catch in the wild and that’s why they are not constantly attacked.
They have characteristics of cows with four stomachs, meaning they chew cud as well.
Feeding is made easy with their long necks that reach out to the trees and the long strong tongues to tag at the leaves.
It has been observed that the males tend to feed from the high branches whilst the females feed on the lower ones.
Giraffes can reproduce when they are between three and five years old, which is estimated to be sooner for females compared to the males. Their gestation period can last up to 16 months and they usually give birth to one calf at a time.
There are many breeding projects being carried out to increase the population of giraffes through Uganda and Kenya.
You can get a chance to see these gracious giants in Kidepo, Lake Mburo and Murchison Falls national parks in Uganda, but in Kenya can view them at the Giraffe Centre right in the heart of Nairobi.