Some time ago we took our daughters to "Taman Safari" in Indonesia. "Taman Safari" means "Safari Park" in Indonesian. It's is an animal conservation centre and it's a really great experience as the animals are in enclosures, not cages, and people drive through the reserve to see the animals. Some antelope and zebra roam freely and you can feed them carrots from your car window and get some really great photos of the animals.
When we arrived at the enclosure for the giraffes and we watched them for a while, I noticed what an extraordinarily long tongue the giraffe has. I did not research it at the time but it became an instrumental part in the story of "Abbit gets Stuck", the second book in my "Junglies" series of children's books.
Recently I revisited my observation of giraffes having such long tongues and decided to research the reason why. I found some interesting information which is great for children to learn too.
1. Giraffes tongues are usually 18 - 20 inches long. That's not as long as their necks but it's still loooooooooonnnggggg!
2. Giraffes favorite food is Acacia leaves. Acacia trees have very long, sharp thorns and the giraffes tongue helps to reach the tastiest leaves which are often at the highest point of an Acacia tree. Giraffes enjoyment of Acacia leaves also makes it easier for them to get food in some ways since the majority of other animals cannot reach as high as giraffes to get leaves from a tree.
3. Giraffes tongues have a thick, tough layer which helps to protect it from being cut on the thorns of acacia trees. Being cut by the thorns is however not impossible and, in order to help when it's tongue does get cut by thorns, the giraffes saliva has antiseptic properties to help it heal.
4. Acacia leaves have a high moisture content and if if giraffes eat about 150kg of acacia leaves every day, they can go for days without drinking water. When giraffes drink from a river or lake they have to spread their legs wide and lower their heads to the ground which leaves them vulnerable to predators. Eating large amounts of acacia leaves thus helps giraffes to not have to endanger themselves so often in the act of drinking water.
5. Giraffes tongues are usually dark black, blue or purple in color. It is believed that the coloring helps to prevent sunburn of the giraffes tongue since it spends so much time every day eating leaves. Who would have imagined?!
The facts I learned by researching the giraffes tongue have been an education for me even at my age. Just goes to show - We never stop learning!
I hope you will share these facts with your children as I certainly never learned them in school myself. There is of course one other use for a giraffe's tongue and you can find it in "Abbit gets Stuck"!
In closing I would like to thank http://wonderopolis.org as the source of these amazing facts I have been able to share with you. For more interesting facts about our world around us visit the site. Images are courtesy of www.i1-news.softpedia-static.com and www.quora.com.
Enjoy and have a great day!