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Since Summerplace was transformed from a farm to a game reserve, we have introduced several new wildlife species. Visually, the most prominent of these species is Giraffe. Although the Waterberg in general isn’t naturally ideal for Giraffe, these graceful creatures have really settled in well at Summerplace. Here’s why.

According to Waterberg Biosphere expert, Warwick Tarboton, Giraffe have been present in the region for thousands of years.

“We see on the rock art in caves* in the region depictions of Giraffe going back a very long time. Giraffes are definitely indigenous to the Waterberg region,” said Tarboton after a recent visit to Summerplace.

This rock art, located at Kaingo Game Reserve, about 45km from Summerplace, is dated as Later Stone Age – around 4000 years ago.

John Mackie, Summerplace Conservation Director, has been responsible for the introduction of Giraffe to Summerplace over the past two years. He agrees that Giraffe are indigenous to the area, but not the entire region, which is largely Bushveld.

A rock painting of a giraffe with an extremely long neck found at one of 70 historic rock art sites in the Waterberg. | Photo: Dr Ghilraen Laue

“Giraffe would have been indigenous, but not very common and likely migratory over time,” said Mackie.

“There are very few parts of the Waterberg that are able to sustain Giraffe with food all year round. Summerplace is obviously one of those. Giraffe are more of a Lowveld species, like Impala. They prefer acacia, which is attached to sweetveld. There is a lot of sweetveld at Summerplace, but very little in the rest of the Waterberg. There’s plenty of acacia and other suitable trees at Summerplace, which is more than adequate to sustain a Giraffe population on the reserve,” said Mackie.

Over the past two years, Mackie has sourced groups of Giraffe from nine different areas so as to ensure a diverse gene pool.

“We have introduced a total of 34 Giraffes at Summerplace now. A couple of young have already been born on the reserve. They seem to be settling in very well. They must be left alone now for the next five years – there’s plenty of food for them, so they’ll hopefully thrive,” added Mackie.

The Giraffe at Summerplace is the South African Giraffe, one of two subspecies of the Southern Giraffe, commonly found in northern South Africa, southern and northern Botswana, and southwestern Mozambique. They number around 31000.

Whether hiking, running, mountain biking or on a game drive, a Giraffe encounter at Summerplace is always a possibility.

Fully grown Giraffe stand between 4.3-5.7 metres tall, with males taller than females. The average male weighs around 1100kg, while the average female weighs around 800kg. Each Giraffe has a unique coat pattern with calves inheriting some coat pattern traits from their mothers.

Males and females have prominent horns on their heads. These are called ossicones, which are skin-covered bone-like structures. The ossicones of young and females are thin and display tufts of hair on top, while the ossicones of adult males are bald and knobbed on top.

Giraffe have only two gaits – walking and galloping. They can gallop at speeds of up to 60kph, but can sustain a speed of 50kph for several kilometres. Adult Giraffe eat around 34kg of plant matter a day. Giraffe gestation is between 400-460 days and usually one calf is born, although twins have been noted. A Giraffe lifespan on average is 38 years.

To experience the Giraffe at Summerplace Game Reserve, book a stay at one of our accommodation options here.

* To read more about the rock art in the Waterberg, click here

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