Native to Africa, giraffes live in moderately dry climates where they can find food and water. Female giraffes travel in herds of six to 12 animals. Adult males often live alone, wandering from one herd of females to another in search of a mate. Unable to cross damp areas because of their heavy and thin feet, a giraffe's habitat is restricted by bodies of water and wetlands.
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Giraffes roam freely in savannahs, which are dry, open grasslands. Savannahs receive more rainfall than a desert but not as much as a forest. This reduced rainfall supports the growth of grasses better than trees. Giraffes choose savannah areas with some trees so that they have adequate sources for food: They cannot survive in areas with only grass. Giraffes especially like acacia trees and will seek out areas where this species of tree grows.
Giraffes do not live in moist tropical forests, but they do often live in dry open woodlands. More wooded than a savannah, these areas provide plenty of food for giraffes. They have temperate weather patterns with distinct seasons of cold and heat and support deciduous trees and evergreens for consumption. Giraffes will not venture into more densely wooded areas, although the bulls (male giraffes) will go into slightly heavier wooded areas than the cows (female giraffes).
Riparian forests grow along watercourses and form an essential element to the habitats of many giraffes. Trees growing along the water provide abundant food. The watercourse itself provides water for thirsty giraffes, although giraffes only need to drink water every few days (they mostly consume water from leaves). Giraffes who live in savannahs may visit nearby riparian forests to find food and water and then return to the grasslands.
Giraffe habitats are predominantly found in east Africa, mostly in Angola and Zambia. In northern parts of southwest Africa, many giraffe habitats have been preserved in national parks. At one time, sub-Saharan Africa had a plentiful supply of giraffe habitats, but these habitats have become fragmented, and some regional species of giraffe have become extinct. Some habitats do still exist in sub-Saharan West Africa, however.
Loss of Habitat
Humans have destroyed many of the giraffe habitats in Africa. National parks provide protection for some remaining habitats. Outside the parks, giraffe habitats continue to be taken over by spreading human populations. Farms bordering giraffe habitats are dangerous to giraffes who enter the farm looking for food, as they are sometimes shot by farmers protecting their crops. Ranches do not endanger giraffes as farms do, however, since the giraffes browse higher vegetation than the livestock, and giraffes may coexist with ranch animals in their habitat.
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