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East Africa’s New Giraffe Species

When colleagues from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute came across a Nubian giraffe in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park in 2015 that was just 9 feet, 4 inches tall, they did a double-take. The neck on the giraffe — nicknamed Gimli — was characteristically long, but its legs weren’t. It looked like someone had put a giraffe’s head and neck on a horse’s body. Then, just three years later, an 8-1/2-foot-tall Angolan giraffe — nicknamed Nigel — was found living on a private farm in central Namibia. After measuring and analyzing the dimensions of the two giraffes, the researchers could come up with only one explanation: dwarfism. The researchers who discovered Gimli and Nigel photographed the creatures extensively and used digital photogrammetry techniques to measure the length of their appendages. After comparing the dimensions of the dwarf giraffes, both mature males, to those of similar age from the same populations, they found that the dwarves had much shorter legs; more specifically, they had much shorter radius and metacarpal bones.