How Giraffes Mate, and Why It Matters
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How Giraffes Mate, and Why It Matters

August 29, 2019


Hi, two quick remarks. First there’s some glitter on my face throughout this video. That’s from my kid, I’m sorry, and secondly, just to be totally clear, this video is about giraffe mating. Okay, I think we can start. Good morning Hank, it’s Tuesday. So yesterday someone tweeted to us: “you two do great work and have helped many but sometimes I miss the days when you just made videos about giraffe sex. Fair enough, so let’s just recap the basics of giraffe sexuality. The majority of giraffe sex according to one study up to ninety percent occurs between two males. There’s also occasional same-sex mounting between female giraffe so heterosexual giraffe sex is not really the dominant form of giraffe sexuality, but it is how the babies get made. Now giraffes can mate for procreation year-round, but they tend to do it during the rainy season when food is less scarce, because they’re less stressed out, and also because plentiful food makes the prospect of a giraffe pregnancy slightly less terrifying. So here’s how it goes down: First a male giraffe uses his head to poke a female giraffe in the butt. This sometimes causes the female giraffe to pee, as you can see here, and then the male giraffe will smell and or taste that pee to determine if the female is fertile, which she is about four days out of every two weeks. If the pee tastes right and everybody is on board, the male will stand behind the female for a while until it’s time for the magic to happen. The magic being a period of intercourse lasting less than two seconds. This extremely brief encounter is followed by more than a year of pregnancy, at the end of which, female giraffes usually produce a single calf often born six feet tall and weighing over 150 pounds. Needless to say Hank this is an inefficient process I mean first you’ve gotta get a male giraffe to sexual maturity which takes at least seven years, then you gotta have enough food for the giraffes not to be stressed out, and then you got to have the right tasting kind of pee, and then you’ve got to be pregnant for four hundred days, and then you usually just get one baby, all be it a gigantic and adorable baby, and even after that your baby is very vulnerable to predators because it’s so small and bad at running but you can’t like pick it up and put it in your pouch and hop away because you’re not a marsupial. All of this means that when giraffe populations go down it’s really hard for them to recover, and they are going down in fact a new report says the giraffe populations have fallen by around forty percent since the nineteen eighties. There are now only about 98,000 giraffes in the world and they’ve just been moved to threatened status by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The cause of the giraffes decline is of course humans, mostly through habitat destruction and hunting. So it can be really hard to fathom just how thoroughly humans have reshaped the planet in the last few hundred years but here’s a bit of context: the total combined weight of living humans right now is around 300 million tons. The total combined weight of our livestock from sheep to chickens to cows around 700 million tons and the total combined weight of every non-human, non-domesticated large animal on earth every penguin and elephant and shark every whale and giraffe and why and all of them combined is less than 100 million tons. When geologist talk about the Anthropocene, the geologic age of humans radically reshaping the planet, that’s part of what they’re talking about. The Earth’s bacteria by the way have a combined biomass north of 350 billion tons but I digress. Right so Hank I think giraffes have a reasonably good chance of surviving the Anthropocene despite their inefficient mating and that’s not because their necks allow them to reach food other animals can’t reach or because their kicks can literally kill a lion it’s because humans like them. We want them in the world or at least I hope we do and it really is our choice if we lose the giraffe forever there will only be one reason why. Humans. Since the Columbian Exchange began a little over 500 years ago thousands of species have gone extinct and almost all of those extinctions are directly attributable to us. We decide, we are deciding right now what the biodiversity of our planet is going to look like, not for the next 100 or 1,000 years, but for many millions of years and maybe if we can accept that responsibility we’ll begin to take it more seriously. Hank I’ll see you on Friday

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  1. I appreciate your plea for conservation, but I don't get your fixation on giraffe sex. it isn't unusual. Many mammals determine fertility of potential mates by smelling/tasting pheromones in urine and feces. That's partly what dogs' butt-sniffing is about.

  2. um…. how on earth did I get here…. I loved giraffes…. but now I'm slightly scared (bc of the sex shown here), but thanks for the info I think 😱… and I freaking hate this!!! I wish we could stop over populating and stop being greedy and stop a lot of the crap we do 🙁

  3. the best thing anyone can do for the environment as a private citizen is to stop consuming meat and dairy its crazy how much that shrinks the carbon footprint of people

  4. Better we save giraffes than pandas. Those inefficient mistakes of evolution really shouldn't get the resources they do.

  5. You have a very smooth forehead. Like it's very pleasing. It was very difficult for me to focus on the giraffe mating with the perfect forehead in front of me.

  6. Anybody else have to go back and watch the 6+ year old videos because u didn't know giraffe sex was a vlogbrothers thing? This actually made me love u more John, I didn't know it was possible.

  7. But giraffes have been around for over a million years and humans for 1/5 of that, and because they are so hard to make, and they have been around for longer than we ever will be, maybe we should just let them go

  8. this is an awesome video, and i think kinda shows how vlogbrothers has evolved over the years, but man oh man do i wish i hadn't been eating breakfast while watching it.

  9. I am very curious to know whether this video has been subject to the same increased viewership among males as the previous giraffe sex videos.

  10. Hello there, fellow Nerdfighters 🙂

    I just had the rather random thought that it would be kind of neat if I had another awesome human – somewhere on this planet – from a completely different country than my own, to just occasionally talk, or rather write, to on the internet.

    Maybe it sounds weird, but I'd love to tackle any topic – whether it's science or philosophy or politics or music or trashy B-movies or giraffe sex… or really just what life is like for you.

    I'm a student at university in Germany and I would be more than happy if someone out there would care to have an e-mail contact like that! 🙂
    Just comment on this if you feel like that's a good idea, I'd be thrilled!
    Have a lovely day, everyone!

    – Tabea

  11. I know this isn't really the topic at play, but I kinda wish your giraffe sex videos would have gone into same sex intercourse as well. You said both in this video and your much older video dedicated to giraffe sex that 90% of all the sex they have is male to male, but then just kinda stopped at that and talked only about the male female stuff.
    Gay giraffe sex is real sex, John!
    Just to complete the gap for people, here is a link to that information:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_behavior_in_animals#Giraffes

  12. A few things I have to say about the information regarding the mating of giraffes the video:

    1) A lot of ungulates do the urine thing – especially in the order Artiodactyla, which along with giraffes and okapis also includes deer, cattle, all camelids, goats, sheep, antelope, and pigs among many many others. This is because they can detect pheromones and hormone metabolites by flehmening, which is a way of pushing the pheromone-laden air or fluid into their VNO, or a vomeronasal organ, which in sensory terms lights up like a christmas tree. Giraffes are no different.

    2) This was mentioned, but probably the most unusual thing about giraffe mating is the age threshold that males need to reach before being allowed to mate. Males will actually reach sexual maturity at as few as 4 years, but the older males will adamantly block any mating attempt of males younger than seven years old. So like many other social polygamous mammal species, a few older males will impregnate almost all of the females. It's really the duration of time before males mate for the first time that is really remarkable and probably the most problematic for giraffes.

    Otherwise, loved the video – it is 100% true that in the Anthropocene human activity is the #1 factor that determines the survival and population viability of most megafauna, among many other animals, plants and potentially other lifeforms.

  13. Hi Jon! I really liked this video! Also, I don't think it really matters if you have a beard or not, you will always be Mr. Awesome John Green.

    I was hoping to get your perspective on something. Your video falls in the realm of our dying ecosphere. Because you mentioned in the video that it is our job (which it is) to fix the problem going on, I was wondering, in your opinion, or from what you know, what are the steps to mending our ecosphere?
    How can we start giving back more than we are taking?

    Your fellow Nerdfighter
    -Ryan

  14. Okay, side bar real quick… I hope, health wise, everything is going well for you John. Your lips are literally purple in the video and it has me worried.

  15. So I know this is a sensitive subject for John….but does that 300 million tons of human weight include the bacteria that inhabit our bodies/compose our being (depending on your philosophical standpoint)?

  16. Bacteria sound like an insidious invasion. They are probably cultivating telepathic intelligence and planning a revolution.

  17. I was recently told by a real life ecologist that honey badgers are endangered with a little credit going to human interference but mostly because they don't really like each other.

  18. Man, we humans… I mean, I wouldn't talk too much bad about 'em, especially in a disparaging manner! They can be quite scary when threatened from their already high-security lives.

    Actually I don't know what to say. Just sayin'

  19. i honestly don't care if giraffes go extinct, as long as it doesn't cause problems for future generations (which it very well could, i'm not a biologist) why would it matter?

  20. An aspect of this that we should take into account: https://foundational-research.org/the-importance-of-wild-animal-suffering/

  21. responsible for giraffe death: giraffes being shitty at mating and being tall, wonky, memes of nature

    the only people who care about giraffe death: humans

  22. Watching April the Giraffe – her mate is only 5. I know this was made last year but obviously giraffes don't need to be 7 or older to make a female pregnant.

  23. As an animal behaviourist that works with cats (domestic and wild, small and big), one of the good thing about cats is that they are so amazingly cute! Is it any wonder zoos put pictures of their tiger or lion on their posters or front page website? These animals however, need a lot of space! A LOT! And a lot of different environmental elements in this space, including prey and shelter. Also their mating behaviour is complex and their babies are often more likely to die than survive their first birthday. So it is all well and good that the public think they are cute and fluffy, but they like their agriculture/food, homes, electricity and ultimately money more. Also there is an idea that these animals naturally live far away so their habitat loss (among many other aspects) has less of an impact to the public that see them in zoos in the UK and USA etc causes the likeability aspect (aka flagship status in the industry) to not receive the support needed despite humans thinking they are cute. So ultimately, like the giraffe, we cannot rely on how cute they are to help save them 🙂

  24. I followed your brother for so long I had no idea this channel existed! Hello John, my name is Lizzy it is nice to meet you! This was very funny and educational. Giraffe's are hilarious and very useful when I try to explain evolution to little kids

  25. So the glitter would have made me super annoyed, but your explanation of it at the start instead makes it adorable. Never change Hank.

  26. STOP POACHERS
    #SAVEGIRAFFES

    MAKE SURE EVERY ANIMAL LIVES AND POACH THE POACHERS!!!!!!
    GIVE THEM A TASTE OF THEIR OWN MEDICINE!!!!!!!!!

  27. Like Anne Frank said, if we can see our power, we're pretty damn likely to take it in a better direction. (Not doing evil only works if you understand your context.) Love this.

  28. tus videos me ayudan a perfeccionar mi ingles,soy intermedio y la verdad te entiendo!gracias enserio estare activo

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