Giraffe on the move… again!

Our troop of Rothschild's giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) has expanded with the recent arrival of a young female from the Swiss zoo of Rapperswil. Uncommonly, this is our third giraffe transfer this year after the departure in January and May of our young males born in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

Riva is 19 months old. Her transfer was recommended by the Rothschild’s Giraffe European Breeding Program. Our group now consists of a breeding male and 3 females, among which little Juliette born last year.

The giraffe is unique in many ways: it is the tallest terrestrial mammal and the largest ruminant. Its high blood pressure and its blood system are perfectly adapted to its morphology and help its brain to be well irrigated, whether the giraffe lifts or lowers its head. Scientists have recently deciphered the giraffe genome and compared it with other ruminants. They identified giraffe-specific mutations related to cardiovascular, bone growth, vision and hearing functions. Among them is a gene unique to the giraffe that lead to a better resistance to hypertension and a higher bone mineral density, both of which being closely connected with giraffe adaptations to high stature.

Of the 9 currently recognized subspecies, only 4 are increasing, classifying the species as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. The main threats are habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, ecological change within ecosystems and ongoing civil unrest in some countries.