Dwarfism discovered in the world's tallest animal - giraffes stunted by a bone growth disorder
- Two dwarf giraffe have been discovered for the first time in Africa by scientists from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF).
- One giraffe was found in Murchison Falls NationalPark in Uganda in 2015 and the other on a private farm in central Namibia in 2018.
- The giraffe seen in Uganda has been named 'Gimli' after the Lord of the Rings character, while the Namibian giraffe is called 'Nigel.'
- Compared to the expected height of 15-20ft, Gimli is only 9ft tall, while Nigel is even smaller at just 8ft tall.
- They have skeletal dysplasia, a condition that affects bone growth and often results in a shorter stature.
- The findings were published in the British Medical Journal.
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Two dwarf giraffe have been discovered for the first time in Africa by scientists from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF).
The giraffe seen in Uganda has been named 'Gimli' after the Lord of the Rings character, while the Namibian giraffe is called 'Nigel.'
Compared to the expected height of 4.5-6 metres Gimli is only 2.7 metres tall while Nigel, who was born in 2014, is even smaller at 2.4 metres despite being four years old when he was first discovered by scientists; an age when male giraffe tend to be fully grown and close to maturity.
Emma Wells, a GCF researcher, said in a press release: "While the Namibian farmer had spotted Nigel regularly over the years, it was only after our observations that he released that Nigel was not a juvenile but a fully grown male giraffe. It is mainly in comparison to other giraffes that his difference in stature becomes obvious."
Using digital photogrammetry techniques, researchers measured the giraffe and compared them to the others in the local population. They found that they had skeletal dysplasia, which affects bone growth and often results in a shorter stature.
Although it has occurred in humans and domestic animals like dogs, cows, and pigs in the past, dwarfism is rarely observed among wild animals, and this is the first time it has been seen in giraffe.
The findings were published in the British Medical Journal.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Michael Brown, said in the press release: "Instances of wild animals with these types of skeletal dysplasias are extraordinarily rare. It's another interesting wrinkle in the unique story of giraffe in these diverse ecosystems."
Africa's giraffe population has declined significantly over the past 30 years. The GCF estimates there are only around 111,000 left of the tallest land animal in the world.
Dr. Julian Fennessy, Director and Co-Founder of GCF, also added: "Giraffe are undergoing a silent extinction in Africa. This is the first description of dwarf giraffe is just another example of how little we know about these charismatic animals.
"There is just so much more to learn about giraffe in Africa and we need to stand tall now to save them before it is too late."
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