Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi, known commonly as the Masai giraffe and sometimes as the Kilimanjaro giraffe, is one of the nine giraffe subspecies. This giraffe is native to east African savannahs in southern Kenya and Tanzania. Although Rwanda has no historical record of native giraffe, in 1986 two Masai giraffe were introduced into the southern part of Akager National Park, where, with subsequent introductions of a few more individuals, they flourished into the currently estimated 100 individuals currently inhabiting this area.
The Masai Giraffe can be physically distinguished from other subspecies by its darker coloration and the shape of its irregular dark brown spots, which have distinctive frilly edges. Of all the subspecies, the Masai Giraffe has the largest population size, estimated at <40,000 in the wild, and at 100 individuals captive in zoos. While the IUCN provisionally lists the Giraffa camelopardalis species as a whole of Least Concern based on its widespread distribution and population size (estimated in 1999 at 140,000 individuals), the Giraffe Conservation Fund (GCF) reports a significant (40%) drop in overall population of the species in the last 10 years and consider the populations of most subspecies, including G. c. tippelskirchi, either declining or unstable. The IUCN and GCF have ongoing projects to census giraffe subspecies, re-evaluate their conservation status, and develop appropriate management programs. The main threats to the Masai Giraffe (and other subspecies) are imposed by humans and include loss, degradation and fractionation of habitat and poaching for fur and meat. Natural predators include lions, leopards, African wild dogs and hyaenas. For more information on giraffes in general see Giraffa camelopardalis.
(Brown et al. 2007; Fennessy and Brown 2010; Giraffe Conservation Foundation 2013; Los Angeles Zoo and Public Gardens 2013; Marais et al. 2012; Wikipedia 2013)
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The Masai giraffe, also spelled Maasai giraffe, or the Kilimanjaro giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi), is the largest subspecies of giraffe and the tallest land mammal. It is found in Kenya and Tanzania.
The Masai giraffe has jagged spots on its body. It also has a short tassel of hair on its tail. The bony outgrowths of the male's skull superficially provide the appearance of up to five ossicones. The dominant male's spots tend to be darker in colour than those of other members of its herd.
Adult males usually reach around 5.5 m in height—although they have been recorded at reaching heights of up to 6 m—and females tend to be a bit shorter at around 5–5.5 m (16–18 ft) tall. Their legs and necks are both about 2 m (6 ft 7 in) long, and their heart has a mass of roughly 12 kg (26 lb).
No breeding season is noted for the Masai giraffe. Females typically can breed from the age of 4. They give birth standing up. Giraffes give birth after 2–6 hours of labor. About 50–75% of the calves die in their first few months due to predation. Though many calves die, the mothers stab predators such as hyenas or lions with their sharp hooves. This can critically injure or kill a predator quickly; the Masai giraffe's kick is strong and is capable of crushing a lion's skull or shattering its spine.
Masai giraffe in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Detail of head, taken at Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
Two Masai giraffes in Mikumi National Park
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