It seems only fitting that we should be celebrating the world’s tallest mammal around the time of the longest day of the year. Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) are extraordinary looking creatures, with a frankly bizarre physique. Their leggy stature and the fact they give birth standing up means that a baby giraffe faces the longest fall to earth of any newborn animal.
The 6ft (1.8m) free-fall arrival of a giraffe named Samyu, a Rosthchild’s giraffe born at Chester Zoo, was filmed last summer by the BBC team behind the upcoming Natural World documentary Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
The Rothschild’s giraffe has become one of the rarest animals on the planet due to factors such as habitat loss and poaching, which have eradicated them from much of their former range. Dr Julian Fennessy is the founder of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
He recently discovered something truly shocking; giraffe numbers have reduced by almost 40% in the past 15 years, to an estimated 90,000. To put this figure in context, the highly publicised and endangered African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is currently believed to have five times the number of individuals roaming the African plains.
No giraffe is going to go extinct on my watch
Fennessy, with the support of a passionate Ugandan team, hopes to avoid what he describes as this "silent extinction", by rounding up 20 of these gentle giants to form a new breeding population. His extraordinary plan is to ferry these animals across the mighty Nile River to remove them from land currently earmarked for oil exploitation.
"No one has a clue giraffes have gone extinct in at least seven countries in Africa, but no giraffe is going to go extinct on my watch," he says.
UK viewers can tune in to watch Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants, narrated by David Attenborough on BBC Two, Thursday 23rd June at 20:00 BST.
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