Two species of animals that “stick their necks out” to get to leaves that are too high to be reached by other animals are the gerenuk and the giraffe. While they don’t quite go “neck and neck” (the giraffe is a lot taller) in getting to the shoots, buds, flowers and fruits from trees and shrubs that make up their diet, they both are well adapted to their “neck of the woods.”
Well, enough of my feeble attempts at word play! Here are some gerenuk and giraffe fun facts.
- Unlike other gazelles and most antelopes that graze on grasses, gerenuk (which in Somali means “giraffe-necked”) often stand erect on their hind legs and stretch their long necks to browse on trees and taller bushes.
- Gerenuk are very well adapted to their arid habitat – they don’t need to drink much because they get enough water from the plants they eat.
- At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Guests can see gerenuk when they visit the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, a self-guided walking tour of native African wildlife. Pangani means “place of enchantment.”
- A giraffe’s long neck has seven vertebrae – that’s the same number as humans! The only difference is that each vertebra is about one-foot long, making the giraffe’s neck over 6 feet long. Giraffe also have long tongues – their tongues can be as long as 18 inches.
- Giraffe also have their own set of unique skin markings, similar to a human fingerprint.
- At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Guests can see giraffe when they ride the Kilimanjaro Safaris.
In the wild, the biggest threat to gerenuk and giraffe is habitat loss; the study and protection of the world’s wildlife and ecosystems is the focus of the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has breeding programs for both gerenuk and giraffe in accordance with Association of Zoos and Aquariums Population Management Plans.