Scientists have managed to understand the reason behind the unusual size of two extremely rare dwarf giraffes. The animals are about half the average height of a normal giraffe.
The first of these two giraffes was first seen in 2015 at Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. It received the name of Gimli, in reference to the dwarf of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Its sighting left scientists puzzled, as it was only 2.80 meters tall.
“The initial reaction was disbelief,” the study lead author, Michael Brown, told The New York Times.
In 2018, scientists observed another similar animal, but even smaller. The giraffe, which was named Nigel, was spotted on a private farm in central Namibia and was only 2.60 meters tall, the investigation details.
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After studying the proportions of these giraffes and comparing them with other specimens of similar age, the researchers concluded that Gimli and Nigel have skeletal dysplasia, that is, an abnormal development of the bones, which resulted in dwarfism.
The condition, in addition to being seen in humans, has also already been reported in domestic animals, including dogs, pigs, and cows. However, it is rarely seen in wild animals, Live Science stressed. Gimli and Nigel are the first giraffes with dwarfism ever reported.
Short stature could seriously affect the lives of these animals and even make them easier prey. Gimli and Nigel “lack the ability to run and kick effectively, which are two of the giraffe’s most effective anti-predator tactics,” Brown explained.
Furthermore, the size of these two specimens could make it difficult or impossible for them to breed. Both Gimli and Nigel are male animals, which makes mating challenging as it is almost impossible for them to mount female giraffes.