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The South African giraffe or Cape giraffe (Giraffa giraffa giraffa) is a subspecies of southern giraffe ranging from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique. It has rounded or blotched spots, some with star-like extensions on a light tan background, running down to the hooves.

South African giraffe
Giraffe standing.jpg
A male South African giraffe in South Africa
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Giraffidae
Genus: Giraffa
Species: G. giraffa
Subspecies: G. g. giraffa
Trinomial name
Giraffa giraffa giraffa
von Schreber, 1784
Southern giraffe distribution.svg
Range map in light brown

In 2016, the population was estimated at 31,500 individuals in the wild.


Taxonomy and evolutionEdit

The Cape giraffe, along with the whole species, were first known by the binomen Camelopardalis giraffa described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in his publication Die Säugethiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen (The Mammals illustrated from Nature with descriptions) during his travel in the Cape of Good Hope in 1784. Although, it is also stated that Dutch naturalist Pieter Boddaert described and given the binomial name Giraffa giraffa whilst also identifying the nominate specimen of said species under the ternary name Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa in 1785.[1]

Following Schreber's description of the South African giraffe, several specimens were described by other naturalists and zoologists since the end of the 18th century under different scientific names, which are all considered synonyms of Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa today:

  • G. giraffa capensis by Lesson, 1842
  • G. giraffa australis by Rhoads, 1896
  • G. giraffa wardi by Lydekker, 1904
  • G. giraffa infumata by Noack, 1808


A bull South African giraffe in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, demonstrating the rounded and blotched spots characteristic of this subspecies.

The South African giraffe has dark, somewhat rounded patches "with some fine projections" on a tawny background colour. The spots extend down the legs and get smaller. The median lump of males is less developed.[2]:52

Distribution and habitatEdit

The South African giraffe is found in northern South Africa, southern Botswana, southern Zimbabwe, and south-western Mozambique.[3] After local extinctions in various places, the South African giraffes have been reintroduced in many parts of Southern Africa, including in Swaziland. They are common in both in and outside of protected areas.[4]

South African giraffes usually live in savannahs and woodlands where food plants are available. Giraffes are herbivorous animals. They feed on leaves, flowers, fruits and shoots of woody plants such as Acacia.


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the body that administers the world’s official endangered species list, announced in 2016 that it was moving the giraffe from a species of Least Concern to Vulnerable status in its Red List of Threatened Species report. That means the animal faces extinction in the wild in the medium-term future if nothing is done to minimize the threats to its life or habitat.

In captivityEdit

A group of South African giraffe at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

The South African giraffes are not very common in captivity. As of 2010, there are around 45 giraffes breeding in zoos.[3]



  1. ^ von Schreber, A. (1784). (Camelopardalis giraffa). Southern African mammals 1758 to 1951 : a reclassification (1953): 151.
  2. ^ Seymour, R. (2002) The taxonomic status of the giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis (L. 1758), PH.D Thesis
  3. ^ a b "Giraffe – The Facts: Current giraffe status?". Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Retrieved 21 December 2010. 
  4. ^ Fennessy, J.; Brown, D. (2010). "Giraffa camelopardalis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2013-01-26. 

External linksEdit