Area of zoo
Pink zone
Enclosure status
Open
Population in the wild
Decreasing
IUCN status
Varied
Latin name
Giraffa camelopardalis
Order
Cetartiodactyla
Type
Mammals
Family
Giraffidae
Region
Southern Africa
Habitat
Bushy Savannah

What do giraffes look like?  

Giraffes are the world’s tallest mammals. They have long legs, necks and even tongues - which are incredibly dextrous. Their famous brown and yellow coat patterns vary between habitats – always adapted to optimum camouflage with their surroundings. 

Their horns are called ossicones and are covered in skin and fur and are similar to deer’s. Giraffes have the same number of neck bones (vertebra) as humans – although theirs are linked by ball and socket joints enabling them far greater flexibility. 

Giraffe using it's tongue to reach some leaves on a tree at London Zoo
A giraffe at London Zoo

Giraffe facts 

Giraffes act as the savannah’s alarm system.  With their long necks reaching above the treeline, they see danger first. When they start running the rest of the plain knows to run too. They can run at a pace of ten miles an hour for considerable distances and sprint as fast as 35 miles an hour in a short burst if threatened. Giraffes spend the majority of their time grazing and digest their food similarly to cows – regurgitating and chewing. They only need to drink once every few days, getting much of their hydration from food 

See giraffes at London Zoo

Giraffes in their indoor and outdoor enclosures at London Zoo

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What do giraffes eat? 

Leaves, bark and buds 

Giraffe habitat 

Bushy Savannah 

Where do giraffes live? 

Southern Africa 

What threats do giraffes face?  

A giraffe’s kick can fend off most predators’ attacks, even lions. Poaching is the giraffe’s only real threat. 

England's first giraffes

Black and white photo of giraffes at Decimus Burton's Giraffe House
The original London Zoo giraffes

Giraffe house history

When giraffes arrived at London Zoo in 1836, they caused a public sensation. Our giraffes were the first to be seen by the public in England, and made Londoners instantly form a connection with the natural world.

How tall are giraffes?  

The average height of a male giraffe is around 5.3 metres in height. Females are smaller and are around 4.3 metres tall. 

Why do giraffes have dark tongues?  

Giraffes have purpley-black coloured tongues, possibly to protect them from sun burn. 

How long do giraffes live? 

The lifespan of a giraffe is around 25 years.

African animals at the Zoo

  • A Chapman's zebra at London Zoo
    Equus quagga

    Chapman's zebra

    With some of the most famously patterned coats in the world, no two zebras ever have the same stripe pattern, and Chapman's zebras have faint brown stripes between their black stripes. 

  • Okapi at London Zoo
    Okapia johnstoni

    Okapi

    Shy and elusive animals, okapis were only discovered by western zoologists from ZSL in 1901, although were well known to the Congolese forest people before this time.

  • Pygmy hippo at London zoo
    Choeropsis liberiensis

    Pygmy hippo

    There are less than 2500 pygmy hippos left in the wild, and they are the only surviving member of their genus.

  • Warthog at London Zoo
    Phacochoerus africanus

    Warthog

    Warthogs can jump over two metres into the air to avoid danger.

  • Gorilla eating at London Zoo
    Gorilla gorilla gorilla

    Western lowland gorilla

    Gorillas are the world's largest primate, weighing up to 200kg. They share 98.4% of their DNA with humans, and all four gorilla subspecies are critically endangered.

  • White-naped mangabey at London Zoo
    Cercocebus lunulatus

    White-naped mangabey

    In the wild they are in real trouble, but our mangabeys are a part of a successful European breeding programme.

  • Waldrapp ibis at London zoo
    Geronticus eremita

    Waldrapp ibis

    There are only around 250 of these birds left in the wild, spread thinly across many countries.

  • Alaotran Gentle Lemur
    Alaotran gentle lemur

    Alaotran gentle lemur

    These lemurs can actually swim, with mothers even carrying their young on her back whilst paddling along.

  • Our animals
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