09 Nov 2014 | By Sun International

Zambia’s Unique Giraffes

Have you heard about Zambia's unique giraffes? They may look like any commonplace giraffe you'll see on your safari experiences, except they're not ordinary in the least.

This is not a tall story, promise. These long-necked Zambian "camel-horses" are quite special for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:

  1. They like hanging out at top notch hotels in Zambia. (Don't you?) If you're staying at The Royal Livingstone, don't be surprised if you're joined at the swimming pool by a curious giraffe. This Victoria Falls accommodation is so perfectly situated on the banks of the Zambezi River that even giraffes come here for some me-time to roam freely across the property. Their quirky habit of loping past sunbathing tourists makes for great photo opportunities.

    Fun fact: Giraffes aren't the only animals you'll see from your hotel window. Zebras and vervet monkeys enjoy hanging out here too.
  2. The giraffes at The Zambezi Sun and Royal Livingstone are not pets, however and although after a few sundowners at the sun deck you might think they're approachable. Don't try to get too close. They may be somewhat semi-domesticated in that they're accustomed to the presence of humans, but they're still wild animals. Rather use a longer lens on your camera than the long explanation you'll need to provide to your travel insurance company. There's a reason why rangers loiter around your Livingstone accommodation: to warn you when you're getting too close to Zambia's special giraffes.

    Fun fact: They'll never consider you a tasty treat. Giraffes are browsers that feed on leaves and shrubs. They particularly fancy Acacia trees.
  3. These tall oddities of nature are actually a subspecies of giraffe. They go by 3 names: the Rhodesian Giraffe, Luangwa Giraffe, and Thornicroft's Giraffe. The latter moniker comes from Harry Scott Thornicroft, a commissioner in the latter-day North-Western Rhodesia. Apparently Harry (or "Dongolosi," as he was nicknamed) shot one of these rare giraffes and sent its remains off to the Natural History Museum in London, where it was displayed until the 1970s.

    Fun fact: Dongolosi means "grandfather of the people." Our friend Thornicroft was a busy man, and fathered 11 children.
  4. Thornicroft's Giraffe is considered to be geographically isolated and occurs only in Zambia. The differences between these and other more 'common' giraffes lie predominantly in their coat patterns: the Rhodesian giraffe has large dark, ragged leaf shaped spots that continue down the length of the leg, set against a cream coloured background.

    Fun fact: Female giraffes live up to 28 years, while males have a lifespan of 22. Male giraffes' patterns darken with age.
  5. There's an estimated number of only 1500 of these unique creatures in the wild, with none in captivity. As a species, giraffes are classified as "Least Concern" by the IUCN, but their populations are declining due to poaching, human population growth and habitat losses.

    Fun fact: Rhodesian giraffes breed throughout the year. They reach sexual maturity at 6 years, and then produce offspring around every 677 days.

Thanks to ecotourism in general, and particularly efforts by Victoria Falls tourism authorities, this subspecies of giraffe is well-protected. Where else in the world can you go to see such a rare and unique giraffe trot past your lunch table? Only at the Royal Livingstone or the Zambezi Sun in Zambia.

Tell us: What are some of the unique moments you've had on your safari experiences? ​