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Scientists are Baffled after Recording First Case of Dwarfism in African Giraffes

Two giraffes in Africa become first to be detected with dwarfism. 
(Credit: Twitter)

Two giraffes in Africa become first to be detected with dwarfism. (Credit: Twitter)

The two giraffes are a little over half of the average height of giraffes.

Gimli from Uganda and Nigel from Namibia are two giraffes who are going on with their usual lives but their heights have become a cause of curiosity in the wildlife research community.

The two giraffes are a little over half of the average height of giraffes. While Gimli measures 9 feet 4 inches, Nigel is even shorter and has a height of 8.5 feet. The former giraffe lives in Murchison Falls National Park while Nigel lives at a private farm. Although the two are separated by habitat, their similarity has brought Gimli and Nigel close.

Giraffes are usually 16 feet tall but these two giraffes with the unusual heights may suffer from dwarfism as per the conclusion of the researchers.

In a report published in The New York Times, Dr Michael Brown who noticed Gimli’s unusual height at Uganda’s national park in 2015 said that his initial reaction was of disbelief. Michael is a conservation science fellow with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Nigel is an Angolan giraffe and he was found in 2018, three years after Michael’s team discovered Gimli.

Dwarfism commonly occurs in humans, cows and dogs but it is for the first time that this condition has been observed in the tallest terrestrial animals. The factors behind dwarfism in Gimli and Nigel remain unclear, although inbreeding and a lack of genetic diversity are usually the cause behind dwarfism.

Both the giraffes suffering from this condition are males and it looks like the neck of a giraffe has been placed on the body of a horse. According to Dr Michael, dwarfism will create a problem for them in mating as it would be difficult for them to mount even the shortest females. The average height of female giraffes is 14 feet.

Gimli and Nigel are also easy targets for predators as the two lack the ability to effectively kick and run. Although there are some difficulties for the two giraffes, researchers have arrived at the conclusion that dwarfism has not been an issue for their survival. This is believed because the Gimli and Nigel have reached adulthood while generally more than half the giraffes die before becoming an adult.

Researchers are monitoring the two in order to understand how they cope with the changing environments. Gimli was last seen in March 2017 while Nigel was spotted more recently in July 2020.

The report mentions that Nubian giraffes are an endangered subspecies and there has been a decrease of 40 percent in the last 30 days in the numbers of giraffes due to poaching and habitat loss. The observations of the researchers will also be used to control the declining numbers of this creature.

first published:January 08, 2021, 17:38 IST
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