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In a recent poll, twenty percent of the people said that they wanted a pet giraffe. I already liked giraffes myself but after researching these stories a bit more, I am definitely part of the giraffe-loving crowd. Of course, I was also ready to get a camel after researching them a few months ago.

Do you think giraffes and camels would get along?

lone giraffe stands on the African savannah
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Fun Giraffe Facts

Here are a few fun facts about giraffes.

  • Giraffes only drink water every few days because they get most of their water from eating leafy plants.
  • Giraffes are the tallest land mammal. They are 14-18 feet tall which means they can look into a second-story window.
  • A giraffe’s eyes are the size of golf balls.
  • Giraffe patterns are unique, like fingerprints. No two giraffes are identical.
  • Giraffes have the same number of neck bones as humans.
  • The giraffe’s tongue is typically black, blue, or purple and can measure 18–20 inches long.
small tower of giraffes gather at a river with trees and vegetation in the background
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National Geographic Video about Giraffes

Want even more fun giraffe facts? Check out this short NatGeo video.

Giraffes on the Move

Here are several stories about giraffes on the move over time – from the giraffe who walked to Paris to current conservation efforts in Africa.

Zarafa, the Giraffe Who Walked to Paris

In 1826, the Egyptian Pasha Muhammed-Ali sent a diplomatic gift to King Charles X of France. What did he send? A giraffe, of course!

Zarafa was the first giraffe to live in Europe. She journeyed by boat from Egypt to Marseilles and then walked the rest of the way to Paris. She was accompanied by her Arab handlers and a famous French naturalist, drawing crowds all along the journey as no one in France had ever seen a giraffe before and as you know, they are quite remarkable. Can you imagine what it must have been like to see one in real life for the first time?

The First American Giraffes

Giraffes are hard to transport so the longer the distance they must travel, the harder and more expensive it will be. The first giraffes in America were part of traveling shows as early as 1837 but were very rare. There were a handful of giraffes in eastern zoos, but by 1925 there were only 5 living giraffes in the United States.

In 1938, San Diego Zoo director Belle Benchley – the first female zoo director in the world! – paid for two giraffes and a rhinoceros to be sent from Uganda.

Unfortunately for the giraffes, as they neared the United States and the end of their 52-day journey at sea, their ship was caught in the largest hurricane to hit the upper east coast (it remained the most devastating until Hurricane Sandy in 2012). They survived but one of the giraffes was injured and the rhino was lost at sea. A veterinarian from the Bronx Zoo examined the injured giraffe and cleared her for travel. The San Diego Zoo’s head keeper Charley Smith and truck driver Ed Seuss loaded the giraffes into the back of a truck and after 10 days of quarantine in Brooklyn drove them to California.

By the time the giraffes were on the road headed west, they had become famous. The Hurricane Giraffes were in the newspapers, and people came out to see them all along the way. Just like when Zarafa walked to Paris, this was the first time most people had seen a giraffe in real life.

The actual details of the journey were not documented by Smith. But the situation was enough for Lynda Rutledge to imagine a journey that she wrote about in West with Giraffes.

West With Giraffes

West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge is a historical fiction novel based on a true event. In 1938, two giraffes barely survive a hurricane onboard a ship. After landing in New York, the giraffes are put into a box built onto the back of a flatbed truck and then driven 3,000 miles to their new home at the San Diego Zoo.

The narrator, Woody, falls in love with the giraffes and manages to get hired as a driver and assistant for the trip. What follows is a wild adventure across Depression-era America. No one had ever seen a giraffe before, so the crowds met them at every turn. Trouble was also a frequent companion on the drive as they rushed to get the precious cargo to the zoo.

You can read an excellent detailed article about the Hurricane Giraffes at Zoo Histories.

Giraffe Conservation Efforts in Africa

Giraffes in Africa today are suffering from a loss of habitat caused by both humans and climate change.

In December 2020, eight giraffes were moved by boat off a flooded island in Lake Baringo in Kenya’s Rift Valley. You can find the podcast story and transcript here – Giraffes on a Boat or listen below.

And in October 2021, ten South African giraffes were relocated via the longest wild giraffe translocation by road (over 2600 km or 1600 miles) from South Africa to Malawi. Here’s a video of the efforts.

Anne Innis Dagg – The World’s First “Giraffologist”

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who loved giraffes so much she went to college to study biology and then moved to Africa to study them in the wild.

In 1956, even before Jane Goodall was in Africa, Anne Dagg was living on a farm in South Africa and spending her days observing giraffes in the wild. She was the first person to do this, and her observations and notes would eventually be used to publish what came to be known as the “Giraffe Bible.”

Listen to this podcast episode to get the story of Anne Dagg.

Watch the trailer for The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

Driven out of academia by sexism

The documentary about Anne Daggs covers not only her lifelong love of giraffes but also digs into the story of how she was eventually driven out of academia by sexist discrimination.

After spending time in Africa researching the giraffes, she returned to her home in Canada. She published her book, Giraffe: Biology, Behavior, and Conservation, with a fellow biologist. Despite her ground-breaking research, in 1972, Anne was denied tenure because she was a woman.

They gave it to a man with fewer qualifications so I knew it was hopeless… because I was a woman.

-Anne Innes Dagg

She left the university and after failing in her efforts to pursue justice in the courts, she concentrated her energies on feminist activism. In 2010 she returned to the world of giraffes and was celebrated for her ground-breaking work.

Celebrate Giraffes with a Bookmark

I love the giraffes so much that I made a set of printable bookmarks that you can buy in my Etsy shop.

preview of giraffe bookmark digital file
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Buy on Etsy!

Visit Giraffes on Your Vacation

Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge

If you want to see giraffes from your hotel room but you can’t afford an African Safari, you can save up and get a safari-side room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in Disneyworld. We were able to stay there on one of our trips and we loved seeing the giraffes and all the animals grazing right outside.

giraffe outside Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge
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Giraffe Manor Nairobi

If I’m ever lucky enough to visit Africa, then I would love to stay at the historic Griaffe Manor in Nairobi. The hotel was originally a hunting lodge built in 1932 and gradually fell into disrepair. It was purchased in 1974 by Betty Lesley-Melville and her husband. There were wild bull giraffes (named Tom, Dick, and Harry!) already living on the property and in the nearby wilderness when they bought the property.

Soon after, Betty and Jock learned that the only remaining Rothschild giraffes were in danger as the Kenyan government was taking over their land to resettle some citizens. Most of the giraffes were relocated to a national park, but Betty agreed to adopt an orphaned giraffe that they named Daisy. Betty wrote a book about this titled Raising Betty Rothschild, which then became a movie, The Last Giraffe.

Another baby giraffe, Marlon, soon joined Daisy, and the family focused efforts on regrowing the Rothschild giraffe population. Rothschild giraffes are the most endangered subspecies of giraffes.

The lodge is now part of the Safari Collection Hotel, and you can stay there. The giraffes still roam the grounds and even poke their heads in through the windows, looking for snacks! Check out this video of the hotel-

Giraffes are the best!

Aren’t giraffes just the best?! You can see now why I want to adopt one, right?

For a daily dose of giraffe, consider following the Giraffe Conservation Foundation on Instagram

More Giraffe Books!

Check out the giraffe section in my Bookshop shop to see more fun books about giraffes.

Sharing is Caring

Pin to spread the giraffe love!

single giraffe in a grassy field with sunset and clouds behind
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