Giraffe Predators: These 5 Animals Kill and Eat Giraffes

Written by Sarah Psaradelis
Published: February 9, 2023
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As the tallest animal in the world, the Giraffe isn’t guaranteed to have many predators. A tall creature like the giraffe will be difficult to take down without a fight and a strategic hunting plan. These impressive animals are typically able to keep themselves protected from giraffe predators by staying in groups. Predators taking down adult giraffes are thus rare occurrences, although they do happen.

Since giraffes are found in a woodland, grassland, or savannah habitat, usually in Africa, most of the predators they face can be found in the same environment.

What Eats Giraffes?

Tallest Animals: Giraffe

Giraffes are the tallest mammals on Earth. Their legs alone are taller than many humans—about 6 feet.

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©Eugen Haag/Shutterstock.com

Five main animals kill and eat giraffes:

  • Hyenas
  • Lions
  • Leopards
  • Wild dogs
  • Crocodiles

These are predatory and carnivorous animals that prey on the giraffe, which is a herbivore. Although giraffes are not these predators’ main meal, there are instances where these animals have been seen killing and eating giraffes.

Generally, young giraffes (calves) who are weak and small are the most vulnerable to these predators. Juvenile and adult giraffes are sizeable enough to keep giraffe predators at bay. If an adult or juvenile giraffe is sick or injured, it will be easier prey. Since the calves need plenty of rest when they are young, they will lie down more often, making them an easy target for predators.

The same applies to sick or injured giraffes, who will spend more time resting because they do not have enough energy to run away or stand for a long time.

Giraffe predators will wait until a giraffe is vulnerable or unprotected before making an attack on such a large animal. Giraffe calves and injured and sick giraffes are at risk of being killed and eaten by predators. Giraffes can also be vulnerable when drinking water from the waterhole, as predators have a chance to strike.

Hyenas

Group of feeding hyenas

Hyenas eat entire animals, including their bones.

©Jez Bennett/Shutterstock.com

A group of hyenas can work together to bring down a giraffe. A single hyena will not be strong enough to kill a fully grown giraffe unless it is sick or injured. However, hyenas are scavengers, so hyenas will eat the leftover kill of other predators, which includes giraffes.

Elderly and newborn giraffes are at risk of being preyed on by hyenas. A group of hyenas will have no problem taking down a calf that was separated from its mother or an elderly giraffe that is not strong enough to keep up with the other giraffes or escape from hyenas.

Whether the hyenas have killed the giraffe themselves or discovered other animals kill, they will begin eating the giraffe carcass.

Lions

Lions eat various prey animals, such as giraffes. As a top predator in Africa, lions won’t have much difficulty killing and eating young, elderly, and vulnerable giraffes on their own. Lions are top giraffe predators, as a pride of lions can take down a fully-grown giraffe.

But it isn’t easy to kill a giraffe, as these tall animals have excellent vision, and the lion relies on stalking their prey. Lions must be extra cautious when pursuing a giraffe if they don’t want to get caught. Since lions go for the neck and vulnerable parts of the body, taking down an adult giraffe is slightly difficult. However, the stomach is the easiest part for a lion to get to when hunting a giraffe, and it is a vulnerable spot.

Young, sick, pregnant, or injured giraffes are easier for lions to kill, so they rarely hunt a healthy adult giraffe since they are likely to fail.

Leopards

animals can kill a lion: giraffe at sunset

A giraffe can kick with a force of 2,000 pounds per square inch.

©John Ceulemans/Shutterstock.com

Leopards are agile and swift hunters that will prey on vulnerable giraffes. It is challenging for a leopard to kill an adult giraffe, which is why they will go for the group’s weak, young, injured, and overall vulnerable giraffes. However, giraffes are not generally a leopard’s main prey, and they will only go to kill and eat a giraffe if they are desperate enough.

Leopards prefer eating elands, reptiles, birds, and baboons; these tree-loving wild cats are opportunistic hunters. The giraffe calves appeal to leopards because they are easier to kill. When the giraffe mother isn’t paying attention, leopards and other predators jump on the opportunity to go in for the kill.

Wild Dogs

A pack of wild dogs, such as the African wild dog, can prey on giraffes. If the pack works together and is hungry enough, they might even be able to take down a healthy adult giraffe. Their preferred meal is the giraffe calves and other weak giraffes that can easily be attacked.

Just like with hyenas and lions, wild dogs usually won’t succeed in taking down an adult giraffe, which is why giraffes generally aren’t the wild dogs’ first choice of kill. Although wild dogs will eat any giraffes they have killed and may even eat a leftover carcass from other predators like lions.

Crocodiles

It might be rare for a crocodile to prey on a giraffe, but it does indeed happen. A giraffe will become vulnerable when drinking water, and as a tall animal, a giraffe will need to bend down and widen their front legs to take a drink. This makes their neck a target for a hungry crocodile watching from the water.

This makes it easy for an ambushing crocodile lurking in the water to attack and eat the giraffe. Like in most cases, the crocodile is more likely to go for a giraffe calf than a full-grown adult giraffe.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jane Rix/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Sarah is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering aquatic pets, rodents, arachnids, and reptiles. Sarah has over 3 years of experience in writing and researching various animal topics. She is currently working towards furthering her studies in the animal field. A resident of South Africa, Sarah enjoys writing alongside her pets and almost always has her rats perched on her shoulders.

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