Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Masai Giraffe

The Masai giraffe is also known as the Kilimanjaro giraffe because it is found in the vicinity of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is found in central and southern Kenya and Tanzania. While the reticulated giraffe has polygonal patches, the Masai giraffe has irregular, jagged, star-like blotches and they extend all the way to the hooves (the patches of the reticulated giraffe sometimes go below the hocks and sometimes not). There are about 40,000 Masai giraffes in the wild (compared to 5,000 reticulated) and 100 kept in zoos (compared to 450 reticulated).
This Masai giraffe in Serengeti National Park has grown very dark, a sign of it being quite old. 
Close-up of the markings on this older giraffe. Photo by John Mirau.
Close-up of markings on a younger giraffe - much lighter. The markings are very different from the reticulated giraffe. 
Side view of a giraffe in Masai Mara. Note the tufts on the ossicones. Photo by Mark Edwards.
An old male in Nairobi NP. Note bald ossicones and very large lump in center of forehead.
We saw Masai giraffes in several locations. First we saw lots of them in Masai Mara National Refuge in Kenya. One amazing sight was seeing multiples of these giraffes along the skyline in the savanna, looking very out of place. You expect them to be in an area with trees that they can use their long necks to reach up into. The other amazing sight was a group of giraffes doing necking, described in the reticulated giraffe post. Male giraffes do necking to establish dominance and the dominant male gets to mate with the females. We watched the necking for 30 minutes or so and it was almost like a ballet of the necks: a slow motion battle that really did not seem all that intense. But I guess when you're standing on stilts, with necks that are more than six feet long, the battle is intense. Giraffes have been killed or have had their necks broken while necking.
Nine giraffes in Masai Mara.
Two giraffes beneath a beautiful cloud filled sky. Photo by Esmee Tooke.
These giraffes look like they are ready to enter the ark - two by two. Photo by Steven Shuel.
Giraffes necking.
I love that the three heads are all aimed in different directions. Photo by Steven Shuel.
Two groups of two necking.
Photo by John Mirau.
Photo by Judy.
Photo by John Mirau.
We also saw a goodly number in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Notable sights were young giraffes nursing, solitary giraffes in the trees eating, quite camouflaged, and some giraffes running.
A young giraffe nursing.
A young giraffe running.
Ngorongoro Crater does not have giraffes, but we saw some not too far below the outside rim of the crater, eating the lush greenery high up on the crater side.
This giraffe is outside Ngorongoro Crater. The ossicones (horns on head) are covered with tufts of hair and it has a medium sized lump on its forehead. Picture by Mark Edwards. 
Photo by John Mirau.
Finally, we watched a giraffe couple in Nairobi National Park that did everything but consummate the mating act. The male was much larger than the female and he shadowed her very closely, sniffing her, caressing her neck and head with his head. Our guide Stephen remarked that he was shy. We probably watched them for 30 minutes.
This looks like one giraffe with ears in its neck, but is actually two giraffes. The taller one is the male and the smaller one is the female. The male was shadowing the behind of the female, obviously wanting to mate, but never quite getting around to it. 
The same couple, but this time obviously two of them. 
A side view of the couple as he continues to follow her very closely.
This is not "necking" in the giraffe sense (two males establishing dominance): more like necking in the traditional sense. The male caresses the females neck with his head. 


  1. The babies, with their very prominent mane, were especially fun to watch. As for that couple in Nairobi National Park, I think he was just waiting for some privacy.

  2. I love the markings on this type of giraffe. I'm so used to seeing the reticulated giraffe in zoo, I forget there are other more interesting pelts. There are some beautiful and interesting pictures in this post.