JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Giraffe height is the giraffe’s competitive advantage, giving it the opportunity to pick leaves from the highest trees, so scientists were surprised to find two dwarf giraffes on different sides of Africa.
“It’s amazing what our researchers found in the field,” Julian Vinici, co-founder of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, told Reuters in a video call on Friday. “We were very surprised.”
Most giraffes grow to 15-20 feet (4.5-6 meters), but in 2018, scientists working with the foundation discovered an 8 1/2 feet (2.6 meters) giraffe in Namibia. Three years ago, they also found a giraffe measuring 9 feet 3 inches (2.8 meters) in the Ugandan Wildlife Park.
They published their findings in the British Medical Journal at the end of last month.
In both cases, giraffes had record long necks but short, jagged legs. Skeletal dysplasia, the medical name for the condition, affects both humans and pets, but the newspaper said it’s rare to see it in wild animals.
Footage taken by the foundation showed a Ugandan giraffe standing on thick, muscular legs in the dry savannah of Murchison Falls National Park in northern Uganda, as a taller animal with long, sticky legs followed her.
“Unfortunately there is probably no benefit at all.” “Giraffes have grown taller to reach taller trees,” Vinici said, adding that it would likely be physically impossible for them to breed with their normal-sized counterparts.
The numbers of the world’s tallest mammal have decreased by about 40% in the past 30 years to around 111,000, so all four species are classified by environmentalists as “vulnerable.”
“This is mostly due to habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, increasing population, and increasing cultivated land,” Vinici said. “Combined with a little bit of poaching, climate change.”
He added that conservation efforts had helped start the numbers boom in the past decade.