Over the last few weeks we have seen a lot of giraffes congregating together, in a variety of herd make-ups. We know there is no strict or long lasting affiliation between giraffes that are not related, the only real bond is between a mother and her most recent calf.
Males tend to roam freely, on the search for females that are in oestrus. Females spend more time with other females, especially when there are young involved. However these herds also often split up and move through different areas where the chances of bumping into other giraffes is high and they will then spend time with that herd temporarily before moving on again.
However there is a slightly longer term aggregation of giraffe that we have been seeing here quite a bit of late; when they form creches for the calves. This system allows mothers to roam off and feed or drink while another female keeps watch over the young.
Giraffe breeding occurs throughout the year, although most conceptions occur during the rains. After a long 15 month gestation the female isolates herself away in order to give birth. The 100kg infant is incredibly vulnerable; the mother nudges it upon birth, encouraging it to get up, and within the first hour it is able to walk. Not yet sure-footed, it is limiting to the mother’s movements as she needs to search for vital nutrition in order to produce milk. The newborn is therefore sometimes left lying up in long grass over the course of the first week. Isolated from the mother for a few hours at a time it depends on camouflage for its survival. This allows the mother to roam up to 3 kilometres from the newborn.
Being a large, browsing ruminant, a lactating female giraffe’s diets consists of a few different species during the winter. Leaves from the Buffalo thorn, Jackalberry, Weeping Boer-bean and any Acacia trees that still have leaves form the bulk of their diet in this part of the world, along with a selection of flowers from Knobthorns and Cassias. Basically eating what ever is available and high in protein. Osteophagia – the chewing of bones to supplement calcium and phosphorus – is common during the winter months.
As the calf is more comfortable on its feet and capable of avoiding danger it begins to move around more. However having the calf constantly nearby remains restrictive on the mother’s search for food. With the partial synchronisation of giraffe births, mothers with similar aged young are likely to associate. The young giraffes enjoy the company of other young giraffes; they perform a nosing ceremony where they rub noses up against each other and then jump apart. All in an effort to cement bonds between them. This tendency of calves clustering together in creches anchors mothers in the same general area. Now with the added security or “baby sitter” mothers can roam further afield to obtain the nutritional requirements. Never gone for too long, the mother always return before dark to nurse her young and spend the night with it.
After about 4 months the calves then accompany the maternal herd and stick with their mothers; a very strong bond which lasts up until a sibling is born. The older calf now at an age just under 2, moves out and roams around as other giraffes do, with no strict bonds to any others.
The number of creches we have been viewing close to the Londolozi camps over the last few months has been spectacular, and thankfully for them, most of the lion activity – their main threat – has been concentrated north of the river and in the southern parts of the reserve. For their sake, let’s hope this situation continues for the immediate future..
Filed under General Nature Safari experience Wildlife
Interesting blog Sean. We were fortunate to spend a few days in Kruger. I can’t remember when was the last time we have seen so many big herds of giraffe. It was lovely.
Thanks Sean! We saw some of the Giraffe on your IG video too. We were lucky to see a new calf just hours old – still stumbling around, on our 2019 visit. Super cute! Can’t be easy to get those gangly legs adjusted!
Beautiful photos and a very interesting article on giraffes’ behavior.
Very interesting! Thanks for the info on a very interesting, but often ‘overlooked’ (seems impossible to do! 🤣) species!
Very informative and interesting post Sean–as usual!
Sean, I loved all photos🤗
i adore giraffes – they look down you with those big eyes with eyelashes every woman envies. Hope all these wonderful animals stay on Londolozi for a good while! Thank you Victoria
That’s a very interesting blog, Sean. You’re certainly seeing lots of giraffe now; there was that journey of more than 15 in the weekly video blog recently, which I think JT said were all males?
Thank you giraffe are endangered animals and so striking! What a view, so many of them!
I just love giraffes… they are just amazing!
Happy they are doing so well…love the photos!
Great Giraffe info!I love seeing the young ones . I would love to see one born – it’s on my safari bucket list.
Thanks , a very informative post .
Fascinating information about giraffes Sean! It is always interesting to learn of the social behaviors of the animals in the bush, and how they are tied to procreation and basic survival. In a previous post on giraffes, it was noted that they can defend themselves by swinging their necks and using their horns. Is this how they defend themselves against predators, such as lions? Have you witnessed this? Let me know Sean, and thanks!
Very interesting 👍🏼
A very interesting blog indeed, Sean. We didn’t know about Giraffe creches! One never stops learning. Neil and Wendy MacNicol
Fun blog and great images, Sean! There’s nothing quite like the magic of seeing a large journey of giraffe silently make their way across the landscape. Creches were news to me, though…
Fascinating reading. Thanks Sean..so many things we learn from you all everyday 🙏💕
Fascinating blog Sean. I hadn’t known about giraffe crèches until now but it makes sense. The video shared by James T several days ago was so special, viewing the 15 bachelor giraffes! I think the norm is perhaps 2-3 hanging out so that sighting was a bonus.