Southern giraffe

The only giraffe species (of four) with population no deceasing

Luca Galuzzi

With its distinctive irregularly notched and uneven brown patches extending down to its legs, stands as a unique and iconic species within Africa’s diverse wildlife. This giraffe species encompasses two subspecies, each exhibiting distinct characteristics and facing specific conservation challenges.

Angolan giraffe (Giraffa giraffa angolensis) is characterized by its generally light coloration and solitary or small group behavior, typically ranging in groups of 3-5 individuals, with larger herds of up to 20. Loss of suitable habitat, fragmentation of sub-populations, and the risk of hybridization pose significant threats to the Angolan giraffe’s survival. Conservation efforts are crucial to addressing these challenges and ensuring the long-term viability of this subspecies.

South African giraffe (Giraffa giraffa giraffa) shares similarities with the Angolan giraffe but exhibits a tan background coloration. Large-scale poaching has resulted in local extinctions in many areas of their historical range. However, with targeted conservation efforts, successful reintroduction programs have been implemented in various locations, contributing to the recovery of South African giraffe populations.

The Southern giraffe’s daily activities primarily revolve around feeding, with individuals spending much of their time browsing vegetation. They possess a unique chewing mechanism, characterized by slow and careful chewing to avoid the large thorns of acacia trees, which form a significant part of their diet.

Despite its name, the Angolan giraffe faced local extinction in Angola until recent translocations from Namibia facilitated their reintroduction onto private land in 2015. Today, the Angolan giraffe population in Angola remains small, with fewer than 100 individuals. These giraffes exhibit a distinctive light coloration, particularly in arid regions, where they appear almost colorless. The fading of spots across the rump gives them a smoky appearance, earning them the nickname “smoky giraffe.”


Population est.
South Africa

Recent updates

Sep 2021: According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), they had completed the first-ever giraffe translocation in South Africa, moving 14 Southern giraffes from a private reserve in the Eastern Cape to a conservation area in KwaZulu-Natal. The translocation was part of an effort to establish a new population of Southern giraffes and increase their genetic diversity.

Aug 2021: The Taronga Conservation Society Australia announced that it had successfully bred two Southern giraffes in captivity, which was a significant achievement for the species. The calves were born in May and June 2021 and were the first Southern giraffes to be born at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in almost a decade.

Did you know?

  • They constitute half of the total African giraffe population.
  • Other species have a faded color on their legs, but this giraffe keeps the spots all over the limbs. Lower legs are randomly speckled with uneven spots and get smaller as they get closer to the feet.
  • Much of their day is dedicated to feeding. They chew slowly and carefully to avoid the large thorns of the acacias.
  • Despite its name, Angolan giraffes were locally extinct in Angola until recent translocations from Namibia.
  • There are <100 giraffes in Angola after re-introduction onto private land in 2015.
  • The Angolans are light in color, especially in arid regions; they are almost colorless. The spots on their body fade across the rump, giving them a smoky look, also known as a smoky giraffe.

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No

Southern giraffe on banknotes

Zimbabwe 5 Dollars (2016)