The towering giraffe uses her elongated neck and dexterous tongue to reach the tops of African trees. In fact, African vegetation is the only kind of food that wild giraffes will ever taste; these beauties are endemic to the large, warm continent. Africa provides the perfect balance of heat, rain and vegetation to keep a giraffe content for up to 25 years.
Giraffes live in sub-Saharan Africa -- south of the Sahara desert -- from Niger down through Zimbabwe and Botswana, with the largest concentration in central-east Africa. Numerous wild giraffes populate Tanzania and Kenya. Different groups of giraffes live in different areas of Africa: Masai giraffes graze in the Serengeti, while Nigerian giraffes live in western Africa.
The ecosystem in which giraffes live is called the savanna; the African savanna is characterized by rolling grasslands that are warm year-round. Temperatures in the dry season dip to a balmy 70 degrees, while the rainy season can see temperatures in the mid-80s. Savannas are found between deserts and tropical rain forests, and their climate is a mixture of both. It’s wet enough to sustain a smattering of trees and shrubs, but too dry for woodlands of any kind.
Humid or Arid?
The African savanna feels more like arid Colorado than the humid Florida coast, at least during the dry season. A giraffe can go long periods without water, yet needs plant-based nutrition to survive. This makes African savannas and grasslands the perfect climate for her. Unlike the Sahara, a truly dry desert with little rainfall, the African savanna experiences a humid, wet season from May through November that brings between 15 and 25 inches of rain per month. This burst of rainfall allows plants and trees to grow and provide nutrition to Africa’s many herds of wild giraffe.
Giraffes are herbivores, so wherever they live needs to be capable of producing vegetation; no harsh desert dwellers here. They prefer tender leaves and buds that grow on trees and shrubs but will eat flowers and fruits when they’re in season. Acacia leaves and shoots make up the majority of a giraffe’s diet in most areas. Though they have dietary preferences, giraffes are quite adaptable. In the wet season, they feed on deciduous trees, shrubs and vines. During the dry season, they eat hearty evergreens near rivers and streams.
- Giraffe Conservation Foundation: How Much Do Giraffe Eat in a Day? What Does Their Diet Consist of?
- The Giraffe: Best Places to see Giraffes in the Wild
- Giraffe Conservation Foundation: How Long Do Giraffe Live?
- African Wildlife Foundation: Giraffe
- The University of Vermont: The Savanna
- Blue Planet Biomes: Savanna
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.