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Life in the Savannah

Giraffes

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Giraffes live in savanna and open woodland. During the dry season, the animals eat evergreen leaves. However, once the rainy season begins, they switch to new leaves and stems that sprout on deciduous trees. Male and female giraffes feed in different ways. Males concentrate on leaves from the highest branches. The females arch their necks to eat closer to the ground. This behavior is so characteristic that a giraffe’s sex can be identified from a long distance away simply by its stance while eating. When drinking water, the animals spread their legs in such an akward position that it helps in avoiding predators from striking at that time. 
 
Giraffes are not great travelers. Though they may have long legs, they do not walk very well. Their legs are thin and stubbly, making them "wobble-walkers." Giraffes do not do well in wet areas, for reasons that their hooves sink in the mud and it's difficult for them to wade across watery paths. Male giraffes are also more inclined to wander into dense woodland, a habitat that females generally avoid.
 
Giraffes may be social animals, but their herds have a very different structure to them. A typical herd of giraffes contains up to ten members, and animals can leave or join it at any time. The herds have no leaders, and they all keep pretty distant preferences for one another. Young males, which often form bachelor herds, and females with calves, which often feed together, are exception to this structure.
 
One of the most striking elements of giraffe behavior is the duel between males fighting for mating privileges. Giraffe duels are among the most extraordinary in the animal kingdom. When two males approach each other, they begin to rub and intertwine their necks. This behavior—known as necking—allows the opponents to assess each other’s size and strength. Often, necking alone is enough to establish seniority. If not, the rivals begin to exchange blows with their heads. Each giraffe braces its front legs and swings its head upward and over its shoulder. If a blow lands solidly, the recipient may stagger under the impact. However, many blows do not have a big impact on the other animal. In rare cases, the giraffes may even collapse onto the ground. More often the contest breaks off after a few minutes, and the loser simply walks away. Don't we wish that was the way our world was!
 
Bibliography:
 
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
 
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