Not all giraffes are tall... Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Tony Hisgett
For the first time ever, abnormally short 'dwarf' giraffes have been spotted in Uganda and Namibia.
Resembling miniature versions of their regular counterparts, these pint-sized long-necked mammals, which look strangely disproportional due to their chunky legs, are half the size of normal giraffes.
One of them - named 'Gimli' after the character in The Lord of the Rings - was spotted at Uganda's Murchison Falls National Park, while another - 'Nigel' - was found on a private farm in Namibia.
"The initial reaction was disbelief," said study lead author Michael Brown.
Researchers believe that the two animals are suffering from skeletal dysplasia which causes abnormal bone development. They are the only giraffes in the world known to have this condition.
Conservationists have warned that Nigel and Gimli could be at greater risk from predators because, unlike other giraffes, they do not have the ability to effectively run and kick.
They could also struggle to compete with other giraffes for food in tall trees.
"The fact that this is the first description of dwarf giraffe is just another example of how little we know about these charismatic animals," said Giraffe Conservation Foundation co-founder Julian Fennessy.