The Masai Giraffe, also called the Maasai giraffe or the Kilimanjaro giraffe, is the largest giraffe and highest terrestrial animal in the world. It is a subspecies of the giraffe family and is native to East Africa. At present, the primary threat to these ‘vulnerable’ giraffes is habitat loss resulting from the increasing human population.
Size: The males can be up to up to 19 ft tall, while the females can reach up to 16 ft.
Weight: The males can attain a maximum weight of 4,250 lb and the females, 2,600 lb.
Fur/hair/coat: They can be distinguished from other giraffes by the star-like reddish-brown blotched patterns on their body that look like oak leaves.
Eyes: Each of their eyes is the size of a golf ball.
Tail: The tail is of a medium length that extends almost up to the thighs with a tuft of black hairs at the tip.
Horns: Both the sexes have two hair-covered horns called ‘ossicones’.
Sexual Dimorphism: Unlike the females, the males usually possess a median lump.
Masai giraffes can live up to 10 to 15 years in the wild and between 20 and 27 years in captivity (like in the zoo).
Distribution & Habitat
Quite like the reticulated giraffe and other giraffe species, the Masai giraffes are also limited to the continent of Africa, specifically to the savanna regions in the central and southern parts of Kenya, as also in Tanzania.
The Masai Giraffes live in herds relatively smaller than other giraffes. The individuals, especially the females, are quite tolerant of each other. Male Masai giraffes can show aggression only when it comes to mating or group leadership. However, during other times they rarely interact, but can make strong bonds with each other.
These animals are not really territorial in the real sense of the term since they do not tend to protect their territories on a regular basis unless other herds of giraffes intrude inside their home territory that can expand over 50 miles.
These mammals spend most of the time feeding and grazing which can last anything between 16 and 20 hours per day. When it comes to feeding, the males consume the top branches of the trees, unlike their female counterparts that feed on the lower ones. The mouths of these animals are relatively smaller than the size of their body. Hence, while chewing with their blue or black tongue, they take in small portions of food every time before ingesting them slowly.
They need only 5 to 30 minutes of sleep in a single day, while still standing, with short naps in the middle that last for 1 to 2 minutes. Though, at times, they rest lying down with their head and long neck folded on the rump. Though these animals cannot call, they can hiss, whistle, roar, and moo.
Masai Giraffe Images
Masai Giraffe Photo
The diet chart of these herbivores is diverse and includes anything from seasonal fruits and leaves to flowers, and even twigs.
Mating and Reproduction
The Masai giraffes do not have any particular breeding season. Both the males and females reach the age of sexual maturity between age 3 and 5 years. The males, in particular, need up to seven years before they mate for the first time. This is, in fact, the time they acquire the physical strength to fight and compete with other males. They display their dominance by hitting their necks around each other. This process of showing power is called ‘necking’, and can last for about 30-60 minutes.
Masai Giraffe Baby
Masai Giraffe Habitat
The number of young at birth is usually one. However, the birth of twins does occur, though very rare. The gestation period of the female is approximately 14 months. The process of giving birth lasts anything between two and six hours.
The male of the species is called the ‘bull’, while the female and the baby are called the ‘cow’ and the ‘calf’, respectively. During birth, the baby Masai giraffe is around 6 feet by height, weighing up to 200 pounds. They are able to walk within about twenty minutes to an hour.
The female Masai giraffes are highly protective of the offspring and can throw powerful kicks to enemies and predators if they try to come close to the young ones. During the first few months from their birth, the rate of mortality of the juveniles is as high as 75%.
The baby Masai giraffes that can manage to survive the few initial months are eligible to join the herd. The females of a herd take care of the young ones taking turns, while the other members feed. Before weaning, the baby giraffe suckles its mother’s milk for around a year.
These animals can manage to swallow their favorite acacia leaves, even though they have prickly thorns, with the help of their long tongue and the thick saliva they produce.
Since they get enough water from the leaves they consume, Masai giraffes can spend several days at a stretch without drinking.
When required, they can take up to 10 gallons of water in a day.
As a behavioral adaptation, the Masai giraffes tend to live in such areas where their foods contain more water compared to other places.
Because of the coloration of the spectacular body spots, they can easily camouflage with their environment.
These large animals are rarely attacked by other carnivores, except for the young ones. The most common predators of the Masai giraffes are lions, spotted hyenas and leopards. However, they are also attacked by crocodiles at times, especially when drinking.
Masai Giraffe Pictures
With a decrease in their population and the high mortality rate of the juveniles, the IUCN 3.1 has enlisted the Masai giraffe under their ‘VU’ (Vulnerable) species list.
At present, there are approximately 32,550 Masai giraffes in the wild.
They are able to consume about 75 pounds of food per day.
The local people used to call these giraffes ‘camel-leopard’ because they have a hump on their back like a camel, and their jagged blotches resembled that of a leopard.
A blow or kick from both the male and the female is strong enough to break the skull or spine of a lion, and in some cases, even decapitate it.