Northern giraffe

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Northern giraffe
Rothschild's giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) - Murchison Falls National Park.jpg
In Murchison Falls National Park
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Giraffidae
Genus: Giraffa
G. camelopardalis
Binomial name
Giraffa camelopardalis
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The northern giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), also known as three-horned giraffe, [2] is the type species of giraffe, G. camelopardalis, and is native to North Africa, although alternative taxonomic hypotheses have proposed the northern giraffe as a separate species. [3] [1]


Once abundant throughout Africa since the 19th century, Northern giraffes ranged from Senegal, Mali and Nigeria from West Africa to up north in Egypt. [4] The similar West African giraffes lived in Algeria and Morocco in ancient periods until their extinctions due to the Saharan dry climate. [5] [6] [4]

Giraffes collectively are considered Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), [1] with around 97,000 wild individuals alive in 2016, [1] of which 5,195 are Northern giraffes.

Taxonomy and evolution

The current IUCN taxonomic scheme lists one species of giraffe with the name G. camelopardalis and nine subspecies. [1] [7] A 2021 whole genome sequencing study suggests the northern giraffe as a separate species, and postulates the existence of three distinct subspecies, [8] and more recently, one extinct subspecies. [9] [10] [11]

Zoo de Vincennes, Paris, France April 2014 (7), crop.jpg Kordofan giraffe (G. c. antiquorum)Its spots may be found below the hocks and the insides of the legs. A median lump is present in males.Southern Chad, the Central African Republic, northern Cameroon, and the northeastern DR Congo.
Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis (Al Ain Zoo, UAE), crop & flip.jpg Nubian giraffe (G. c. camelopardalis)It has sharply defined chestnut-coloured spots surrounded by mostly white lines, while undersides lack spotting. Includes the Rothschild's giraffe ecotypeEastern South Sudan and southwestern Ethiopia, in addition to Kenya and Uganda.
Giraffe Retouch.jpg West African giraffe (G. c. peralta)This animal has a lighter pelage than other subspecies, with red lobe-shaped blotches that reach below the hocks.Southwestern Niger
Senegalese giraffe (G. c. senegalensis)It had dark brown patches, with a clear contour. Body was almost uniform in size.Extinct; formerly parts of Senegal, The Gambia, Mali, and Mauritania up until the 1970s.


Skull of a northern giraffe, that demonstrates the ossicones on their foreheads Giraffa camelopardalis 02 MWNH 356.jpg
Skull of a northern giraffe, that demonstrates the ossicones on their foreheads

Often mistaken with the Southern Giraffes, Northern giraffes can be differentiated by the shape and size of the two distinctive horn-like protuberances known as ossicones on their foreheads; they are longer and larger than those of southern giraffes. Bull Northern giraffes have a third cylindrical ossicone in the center of the head just above the eyes, which is from 3 to 5 inches long. [2]

Distribution and habitat

Northern giraffes live in savannahs, shrublands, and woodlands. After numerous local extinctions, Northern giraffes are the least numerous giraffe species, and the most endangered. In East Africa, they are mostly found in Kenya and southwestern Ethiopia, and rarely in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. In Central Africa, there are about 2,000 in the Central African Republic, Chad and Cameroon. Once widespread in West Africa, a few hundred Northern giraffes are confined in the Dosso Reserve of Kouré, Niger. They are isolated in South Sudan, Kenya, Chad and Niger. They commonly live both in and outside of protected areas. [1]

The earliest ranges of the Northern giraffes were in Chad during the late Pliocene. Once abundant in North Africa, they lived in Algeria from the early Pleistocene during the Quaternary period. They lived in Morocco, Libya and Egypt until their extinction there around AD 600, as the drying climate of the Sahara made conditions impossible for giraffes. Giraffe bones and fossils have been found across these countries. [5] [6]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Giraffe</span> Tall African hoofed mammal

The giraffe is a large African hoofed mammal belonging to the genus Giraffa. It is the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant on Earth. Traditionally, giraffes have been thought of as one species, Giraffa camelopardalis, with nine subspecies. Most recently, researchers proposed dividing them into four extant species due to new research into their mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, and individual species can be distinguished by their fur coat patterns. Seven other extinct species of Giraffa are known from the fossil record.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Giraffidae</span> Family of mammals belonging to even-toed ungulates

The Giraffidae are a family of ruminant artiodactyl mammals that share a common ancestor with deer and bovids. This family, once a diverse group spread throughout Eurasia and Africa, presently comprises only two extant genera, the giraffe and the okapi. Both are confined to sub-Saharan Africa: the giraffe to the open savannas, and the okapi to the dense rainforest of the Congo. The two genera look very different on first sight, but share a number of common features, including a long, dark-coloured tongue, lobed canine teeth, and horns covered in skin, called ossicones.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Masai giraffe</span> Species of giraffe

The Masai giraffe, also spelled Maasai giraffe, and sometimes called the Kilimanjaro giraffe, is a species or subspecies of giraffe. It is native to East Africa. The Masai giraffe can be found in central and southern Kenya and in Tanzania. It has distinctive jagged, irregular leaf-like blotches that extend from the hooves to its head. The Masai giraffe is currently the national animal of Tanzania.

<i>Panthera leo leo</i> Lion subspecies

Panthera leo leo is a lion subspecies present in West Africa, northern Central Africa and India. In West and Central Africa it is restricted to fragmented and isolated populations with a declining trajectory. It has been referred to as the northern lion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Waza National Park</span> National park in Cameroon

Waza National Park is a national park in the Department of Logone-et-Chari, in Far North Region, Cameroon. It was founded in 1934 as a hunting reserve, and covers a total of 1,700 km2 (660 sq mi). Waza achieved national park status in 1968, and became a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1979.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pecora</span> Infraorder of mammals

Pecora is an infraorder of even-toed hoofed mammals with ruminant digestion. Most members of Pecora have cranial appendages projecting from their frontal bones; only two extant genera lack them, Hydropotes and Moschus. The name "Pecora" comes from the Latin word pecus, which means "cattle". Although most pecorans have cranial appendages, only some of these are properly called "horns", and many scientists agree that these appendages did not arise from a common ancestor, but instead evolved independently on at least two occasions. Likewise, while Pecora as a group is supported by both molecular and morphological studies, morphological support for interrelationships between pecoran families is disputed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ossicone</span> Horn-like structure of giraffes, okapi, and extinct relatives

Ossicones are columnar or conical skin-covered bone structures on the heads of giraffes, male okapi, and some of their extinct relatives. Ossicones are distinguished from the superficially similar structures of horns and antlers by their unique development and a permanent covering of skin and fur.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rothschild's giraffe</span> Population of Giraffe

Rothschild's giraffe is an ecotype of the Nubian giraffe. It is one of the most endangered distinct populations of giraffe, with 1,399 mature individuals estimated in the wild in 2018.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kordofan giraffe</span> Subspecies of giraffe

The Kordofan giraffe is a species or subspecies of giraffe found in northern Cameroon, southern Chad, the Central African Republic, and possibly western Sudan. Historically some confusion has existed over the exact range limit of this subspecies compared to the West African giraffe, with populations in e.g. northern Cameroon formerly assigned to the latter. Genetic work has also revealed that all "West African giraffe" in European zoos are in fact Kordofan giraffe. It has been suggested that the Nigerian giraffe's ancestor dispersed from East to North Africa during the Quaternary period and thereafter migrated to its current Sahel distribution in West Africa in response to the development of the Sahara desert. Compared to most other subspecies, the Kordofan giraffe is relatively small at 3.8 to 4.7 meters, with more irregular spots on the inner legs. Its English name is a reference to Kordofan in Sudan. There are around 2,300 individuals living in the wild.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">West African giraffe</span> Subspecies of giraffe

The West African giraffe, also known as the Niger giraffe, is a species or subspecies of the giraffe distinguished by its light colored spots. Its last self-sustaining herd is in southwest Niger, supported by a series of refuges in Dosso Region and the tourist center at Kouré, some 80km southeast of Niamey.

Synodontis camelopardalis, known as the giraffe synodontis, is a species of upside-down catfish that is endemic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo where it is only known to occur in the Tshuapa River. It was first described by Max Poll in 1971. The original specimens were obtained in Eala, on the Ruki River in the central Congo River Basin. The species name camelopardalis refers to the giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis, in reference to the coloration of the fish.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South African giraffe</span> Subspecies of southern giraffe

The South African giraffe or Cape giraffe is a species or subspecies of giraffe found in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Mozambique. It has rounded or blotched spots, some with star-like extensions on a light tan background, running down to the hooves.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thornicroft's giraffe</span> Subspecies of giraffe

Thornicroft's giraffe, also known as the Rhodesian giraffe or Luangwa giraffe, is a subspecies of giraffe. It is sometimes considered a species in its own right or a subspecies of the Masai giraffe. It is geographically isolated, occurring only in Zambia’s South Luangwa Valley. An estimated 550 live in the wild, with no captive populations. Its lifespan is 22 years for males and 28 years for females. The ecotype was originally named after Harry Scott Thornicroft, a commissioner in what was then North-Eastern Rhodesia and later Northern Rhodesia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reticulated giraffe</span> Species of giraffe

The reticulated giraffe is a species/subspecies of giraffe native to the Horn of Africa. It is differentiated from other types of giraffe by its coat, which consists of large, polygonal, block-like spots, which extend onto the lower legs, tail and face. These prominent liver-red spots also show much less white between them, when compared to other giraffe species. While the reticulated giraffe may yet still be found in parts of its historic range, such as areas of Somalia and Ethiopia, its population stronghold is primarily within Kenya. There are approximately 8,500 individuals living in the wild.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nubian giraffe</span> Subspecies of giraffe

The Nubian giraffe, also known as Baringo giraffe or Ugandan giraffe, is the nominate subspecies or species of giraffe. It is found in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Sudan. It is currently extinct in the wild of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt and Eritrea. The Nubian giraffe used to be widespread in northeast Africa. The subspecies was listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN in 2018 for the first time due to a 95% decline in the past three decades.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Angolan giraffe</span> Subspecies of southern giraffe

The Angolan giraffe, also known as the Namibian giraffe or smokey giraffe, is a species or subspecies of giraffe that is found in northern Namibia, south-western Zambia, Botswana, western Zimbabwe and since mid-2023 again in Angola.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Southern giraffe</span> Species of giraffe

The southern giraffe, also known as two-horned giraffe, is a species of giraffe native to Southern Africa. However, the IUCN currently recognizes only one species of giraffe with nine subspecies.

The Senegalese giraffe, or just the Senegal giraffe, is a partially disputed, extinct subspecies of the West African giraffe that was native to parts of Senegal and surrounding areas up until the 1970s.


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