Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
See the giraffe, the African herbivore that stands head and shoulders above the rest!
Giraffes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Guests can see giraffes while experiencing the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction or while enjoying Savor the Savanna: Evening Safari Experience and Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. Giraffes can also be seen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, on the savannas located near Jambo House and Kidani Village. Guests may get an up-close look at the giraffes by experiencing Sense of Africa, a program offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Giraffes in the Wild
Giraffes live in sub-Saharan Africa in arid shrub lands, open acacia woodlands and dry savannas where trees are plentiful. There are 9 subspecies of giraffes, and each is found within its own isolated pocket of wilderness with no overlap in their ranges.
Threats to Giraffes
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) identifies giraffes as a species of “least concern” in the wild; however, their numbers are sharply decreasing. In 1999, the total giraffe population was estimated to be about 140,000 animals. By 2011 the population fell to 80,000—a whopping 43% decrease. Threats facing giraffes are poaching and the loss, fragmentation and degradation of their habitats. All 9 subspecies are at risk, with some—such as the Rothschild’s giraffe and West African giraffe—in such a detrimental state of decline that they are now qualified as critically endangered.
Disney Conservation Efforts
The Walt Disney Company is passionately committed to the protection of giraffes and their natural habitats. Find out what Disney is doing for these incredible creatures—and how you can help!
“We are giving our Guests an opportunity to connect with animals, nature and spectacular natural beauty.” – Dr. Mark Penning, VP Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment
The wide open spaces of the African savanna are shrinking—and with them so are giraffe habitats.
Small Spaces for Large Animals
In Africa, increases in the human population often result in wild spaces converted to agriculture fields, roads and cities—all of which shrink giraffe habitat. As the human population grows, giraffes lose their land and access to food and clean water.
An Unhappy Tail
Many African cultures place high value on giraffe tails, using the wiry, coarse hairs to create artifacts of traditional significance and everyday practical use. Giraffe poaching—many times just for the tail, but sometimes for the meat and hide—has been a driving force behind the decline of the world’s tallest terrestrial mammal.
Disney Is Helping Giraffes in the Wild
Since 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) has contributed more than $40 million to support conservation programs in 115 countries.
How African Cats Is Helping Giraffes
Through collaboration with Disneynature, producer of the wildlife film African Cats, and the “See African Cats, Save the Savanna” campaign, the Disney Conservation Fund is helping the African Wildlife Foundation engage local communities to protect more than 65,000 acres of land in Kenya’s Amboseli Wildlife Corridor. The program enables wild animals, including giraffes, to roam freely between protected habitats.
Disney’s animal care experts are dedicated to creating authentic habitats that cater to the social needs and natural history of these towering animals.
The Right Terrain
The giraffe habitats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge have been designed to enrich the lives of our giraffes, based on detailed research into their natural history. The daytime habitat is complete with tall grasses, shade trees, shrubs and lots of space. Fabricated termite mounds, similar to the real ones found on the African savanna, are scattered throughout the savanna. All of these elements combine to provide the giraffes with opportunities to rest, move, interact and explore their habitat.
Out and About
Our giraffes spend their days roaming the savanna and browsing for food alongside a wide variety of species, including wildebeest, springbok and Ankole cattle. This side-by-side coexistence simulates an authentic savanna ecosystem where giraffes share the African plains with a variety of other species.
Well-disguised and strategically placed feeders are the perfect form of enrichment for these daylong browsers. Puzzle feeders and other enrichment items are placed up high, at giraffe height, for the animals to investigate and manipulate. These ever-changing additions to the giraffes’ environment promote natural foraging behaviors and encourage curiosity.
Right on Cue
Giraffes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge are trained to respond to audio cues. These cues tell the giraffes when it is time for them to head from the savanna to their backstage homes, and vice versa.
Veterinary Care and Animal Training
Training coupled with positive reinforcement allows our animal care experts to provide around-the-clock care to the giraffes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. In fact, the giraffes are so familiar and comfortable with these daily health checkups, they participate in their own medical care, such as voluntarily standing on a scale. Some of the giraffes will even allow a blood pressure cuff to be placed around their tail! Our animal care experts use positive training techniques and tasty rewards to help teach the giraffes these behaviors. All training is accomplished through protective barriers to ensure the safety of both animals and people.
How do humans measure up to giraffes? Believe it or not, we do have something in common!
Giraffes have 7 vertebrae in their neck—just like humans! So, what is the difference? Well, human neck vertebrae are typically less than an inch long. Compare that to the foot-long vertebrae in a giraffe’s neck. No wonder these towering creatures can stand up to 20 feet tall! Their long necks come in handy, too. Giraffes use them to reach high into the treetops to browse for their favorite food: leaves. Plus, their bird’s-eye view affords them an advantage in spotting predators in the wild from far away.
Nine of a Kind
When looking at a giraffe, you may want to look twice. Or thrice. Or 9 times! While all giraffes may look alike at first glance, there are actually 9 giraffe subspecies, each with their own distinctive coloration and blocky patterning. At Walt Disney World Resort, you can meet the Masai and reticulated subspecies of giraffe.
Neck and Neck with the Competition
When it comes to finding a mate, giraffes are neck and neck with each other—literally! Male giraffes will compete over females by engaging in a battle behavior known as “necking,” where the giraffes swing their necks to gain momentum before butting into each other’s ossicones, the bony protrusions on top of their head. The winner gets the girl and becomes the more dominant of the two.
Giraffes don’t just have long necks—they possess long tongues as well! The average giraffe tongue measures a whopping 17 to 20 inches. Their tongues are also very strong and prehensile, meaning they are capable of grasping, holding and wrapping around things. This unique ability allows giraffes to strip leaves from thorny branches with ease, a skill that comes in handy, considering these massive creatures spend most of their time browsing, easily devouring up to 75 pounds of vegetation daily! Giraffe tongues are also very dark, best described as being black, deep purple or blue in color. Scientists speculate that the color prevents the tongue from getting sunburned while grabbing on to all those leaves.
Talk about fast learners! Within the first hour of life, newborn giraffes can already stand and walk. Born taller than the average adult human, baby giraffes stand an average of 6 feet tall!
Just Out of Reach
Despite its incredible length and flexibility, a giraffe’s neck is unable to reach the ground. As a result, giraffes must awkwardly spread their legs when bending over for a drink of water. This leaves them especially vulnerable to predators. However, giraffes at watering holes will often team up to keep watch for each other.
What can one person or family do to protect giraffes and their habitats? A lot more than you think!
Tell Your Friends: Many people do not know that there is more than one type of giraffe, or that they need our help. Spread the word about the threats facing giraffes today and encourage others to learn more as well.
Support the Construction of Wildlife Corridors: Wildlife corridors provide a safe way to reconnect populations of wild animals that have been separated by the construction of roads and other human-made structures. Protect nature by learning more about habitat fragmentation near you and support local initiatives underway to remedy this issue.
Visit an Accredited Zoo Near You: Many accredited zoos are home to giraffes. Show your support for conservation and research by visiting the giraffes at an accredited zoological institution near you.
Visit the Websites Below: The Walt Disney Company is committed to protecting the planet and using resources wisely. We conserve nature and inspire kids and families to join us in caring for the planet. Explore the websites below to see how Disney is helping to make the world a better place—and learn about the many creative ways you can make a difference, too!
“Conservation isn’t just the business of a few people, it’s a matter that concerns all of us… If we will use our riches wisely, if we will protect our wildlife, and preserve our lakes and streams, these things will last us for generations to come.” – Walt Disney