Scientists in 'Disbelief' After Discovering Dwarf Giraffes in Africa


Scientists have discovered the first instance of dwarfism in giraffes, finding two giraffes standing about 9 feet tall, 7 feet shorter than a typical adult giraffe.

A team of conservation biologists in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park came across the first adult Nubian giraffe with short, stocky legs in 2015, The New York Times reported.

The giraffe, nicknamed Gimli, had the typical long neck but only reached a height of 9 feet, 4 inches. An average adult giraffe grows to about 16 feet.

“The initial reaction was disbelief,” Dr. Michael Brown told The Times.

Three years later, an 8 1/2-foot-tall Angolan giraffe, nicknamed Nigel, was found on a private farm in central Namibia.

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The scientists used photogrammetry to measure and analyze the dimensions of the giraffes and concluded that this was an example of dwarfism in the wild.

“While the Namibian farmer had spotted Nigel regularly over the years, it was only after our observations that he realized that Nigel was not a juvenile but a fully grown male giraffe,” co-author Emma Wells wrote in the BioMed Central research report.

“It is mainly in comparison to other giraffe that his difference in stature becomes obvious.”

Dwarfism, also known as skeletal dysplasia, is a genetic condition that affects bone and cartilage growth.

The condition has been well-documented in people, dogs, cows and pigs, but this was the first reported instance of the condition in giraffes.

“Instances of wild animals with these types of skeletal dysplasias are extraordinarily rare,” Brown said in a statement.

“It’s another interesting wrinkle in the unique story of giraffe in these diverse ecosystems.”

Are you surprised to see a giraffe with dwarfism?

The scientists plan to monitor Gimli and Nigel throughout their lives to see how their dwarfism will affect their behavior and social statuses, according to The New York Times.

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“It’s easy to imagine how this might make them more susceptible to predation since they lack the ability to effectively run and kick, which are two of the giraffe’s most effective anti-predator tactics,” Brown said.

“Additionally, given the mechanics of giraffe mating, I’d speculate that for both of these giraffes, mating would be physically challenging.”

The cause of the two giraffes’ dwarfism remains a mystery, but researchers are looking into a population decline in the 1980s that could have created a lack of genetic diversity that could cause the condition.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith