We don’t really know how long giraffe live in the wild as there is no recorded evidence. We believe that both male (bulls) and female (cows) giraffe can live to about 25 years in the wild and even longer in captivity. In our long-term conservation project in northwest Namibia we now know that some giraffe that were first identified as sub-adults in 2000, are still alive today – making them some of the oldest recorded giraffe in the wild.
However, even the world’s tallest animal has enemies. Giraffe mortality rates vary from region to region dependent on density of natural predators. Even adult male giraffe are sometime predated by lion, while sub-adults and calves are particularly vulnerable and can also be taken by hyena, leopard, wild dog and crocodile.
As an example, the infant mortality rate in the Serengeti (Masai giraffe – G. tippelskirchi) for one month old giraffe calves is over 20% while approximately half of the calves do not survive their first 6 months. This figure reaches nearly 60% by the end of the first year in the Serengeti, dropping to 8% in the second year and just 3% in the third.
Once mature, the defensive kick of an adult giraffe is enough to seriously damage even the most determined predator, and many a lion has succumbed to the fierceness of their dinner plate size hooves.