Masai giraffe in Maasai Mara, Kenya
© Andy Rouse/Minden Picture
Solo on the savannah. A giraffe in Maasai Mara, Kenya
Our lonely giant is silhouetted on the Maasai Mara, or just 'The Mara' to locals. It's a large national game reserve in Kenya, and one of the world's most important wildlife conservation areas. The preserve was established in 1961 and is contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania—together, the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem protects some 9,700 square miles. In addition to our friend the giraffe, the Maasai Mara is home to large populations of elephants, lions, cheetahs, rhinos, wildebeest, hippos, crocodiles, zebras, and many more creatures.
While some zoologists consider the Masai giraffe its own species, most authorities recognize just one species of giraffe with nine subspecies. Masai giraffes like this one are the tallest of those, with males reaching heights of more than 18 feet. They range from southern Kenya, south through the Serengeti, and through all of Tanzania. In 2019, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced that Masai giraffes are now endangered. Their population has declined by nearly 50% in the last 30 years, mostly because of poaching and changes in land use.
Until the late 19th century, giraffes were commonly known as camelopards, due to the mistaken belief that a giraffe was a cross between a camel and leopard. But if you've ever tried to get a camel and a leopard to even go on a first date, you'd know how unlikely this is.