Discovery of Dwarf Giraffes Baffles Scientists

by Madonna Watts D'Souza
Discovery of Dwarf Giraffes Baffles Scientists

January 25, 2021

The seemingly cute and harmless giraffes are facing a dangerous survival disadvantage. Scientists are baffled as they are seeing dwarf giraffes for the first time.

Who knew the world’s tallest animal would have a tiny and cuter version of themselves. Researchers, however, are seriously concerned about the animals’ small stature.

Whenever we hear about giraffes, most of us will think of long necks, thin limbs and a height of almost 18 feet. Giraffes are some of the fascinating creatures since they are the tallest animals in the whole world! However, in the rarest of rarest incidences, scientists and people were shocked to spot giraffes they never thought they would.

The giraffe is distinguished by its long stature, which enables it to pick up the leaves from the top of the trees, but scientists have been baffled after finding two dwarf giraffes.

Unusually Small Giraffes

Two tiny giraffes were spotted in the wilderness of Uganda. These giraffes are dwarfs compared to the other giraffes, but that doesn’t mean these giraffes are the height of an ordinary human being, they are still taller than us! However, these adorable creatures were trotting around the jungles with a height of around 9 feet or 2.7 metres.

Not only were several researchers and people are taken aback by it, but they were also amused and in disbelief cause, only a few had imagined that a massive creature like a giraffe would also end up in having tinier versions of itself. Michael Brown, a conservation researcher with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation who led the study on dwarf giraffes “The initial reaction was disbelief.

This image is often shared with the simple caption “short giraffe,” while other postings claim that the animal suffers from dwarfism or is a “midget obese giraffe.”

Sightings & Nomenclature of the Uncommon Giraffes

One of the giraffes has been named ‘Gimli’, A name quite familiar amongst the Lord of the Rings fanbase. Gimli was first spotted in 2015 in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park. At that time, the researchers were shocked to encounter a giraffe half the average height size.

Gimli is a 9-foot-4-inch-tall or 2.8 metres tall giraffe. Gimli’s legs were abnormally short and bulky. According to media outlets, the giraffe seemed like someone stuck the neck and face of a giraffe on a zebra, or horse. In 2018, scientists encountered another 8-foot-6-inch-tall or 2.6 metres giraffe. This giraffe was shorter than Gimli and was nicknamed ‘Nigel’.

Nigel was located on a secluded farm in central Namibia, according to a recent study published on 30th December in the journal BMC Research Notes.

The giraffe, named Gimli, only reached a height of 9 feet, 4 inches tall—several feet shorter than the average adult, which grows to about 16 feet. The team was in "disbelief".

Analysis of the Situation

Dr Brown outlined, “We get to know the giraffes, and these populations, rather intimately. Giraffes have unique coat patterns, and we can identify them as individuals using some pattern recognition.” After analysing the dimensions of these dwarf giraffes and comparing them with the other normal giraffes within the same age range, they concluded that both Gimli and Nigel are suffering from skeletal dysplasia faulty bone development, which resulted in their dwarfism.

Dwarfism is rarely observed in the wild as compared to domestic animals, including humans. Hence, it was such a shocker to see Nigel and Gimli strut around with such tiny heights. So far, both Gimli and Nigel are the first reported giraffes with skeletal dysplasia or dwarfism.

Impediments to the Giraffes' Survival

Of the many reasons researchers are concerned, Nigel and Gimli will be at a survival disadvantage due to their heights. Their short limbs mean that predators like Lions could easily take them down. According to Dr Brown, this is because, “They cannot effectively run and kick, which are two of the giraffe’s most effective anti-predator tactics.”

The second problem would be that mating will turn extremely difficult for both the giraffes. Both are male, and an average female giraffe is around 14 feet or 4.3 metres tall. Hence, mounting of females’ torso would be extremely hard given their short legs, but maybe they could achieve it if they had a stool to step on.

Gimli was last seen in March 2017, while Nigel was prior observed July 2020. Since then, they haven’t been seen, but the researchers are optimistic that they will soon encounter the tiny trotters in the wild once more.

Gimli, a Ugandan giraffe that likely has skeletal dysplasia, takes a stroll.

Concerns in Totality

Julian Fennessy, director and co-founder of Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), delineated, “The fact that this is the first description of the dwarf giraffe is just another example of how little we know about these charismatic animals. There is just so much more to know about the giraffes in Africa, and we need to stand tall now to save them before it is too late.”

A concerning note is that giraffes’ population has been on a significant decline in the wholes African continent since the past few decades. According to the GCF only around 111,000 giraffes are left in the wild with 1300 of them in Uganda.

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