Giraffe

In our final Wild Encounters of the year, Micah Rumsey is sticking his neck out. He has to take the high ground to go face to face with nature’s tallest animal…the giraffe.  Here’s his interview with Senior Mammal Keeper, Alyson Goodwin.

We’re back with another edition of Wild Encounters and we’re at an elevated position so we can get on the level of these giraffe, one of everyone’s favorite animals.  Tell us about the giraffe that you have here at Riverbanks Zoo.

Well, we have seven giraffe.  They all range in ages.  Our youngest is five.  Our oldest is kind of in her upper teens, so we kind of have a whole slew of giraffe here.

And this is Sharon.

This is Sharon.

And Sharon has been very friendly over hanging out with us.  Tell us about not only what they eat, but how they eat.

Well, currently Sharon is eating her grain.  She is very much grain-driven.  If there’s grain versus produce, she will always go for this.  That’s why she’s hanging out right now.  We actually use just produce for training.  It’s sugary so we don’t use it on a regular basis.  The grain is the majority of their diet and they range between eight pounds to thirteen pounds depending on how big the giraffe is.  The other big part of their diet is hay.  They each get a couple flakes of hay in a day and we try to give them as much browse as we can, so tree…edible trees.

We focus a lot on the giraffe neck, so tell us a little bit about that long neck.

So that long neck is really unique.  It’s kind of what makes a giraffe a giraffe.  The interesting thing about it though is…so we have seven vertebrae in our neck.  They have seven vertebrae.  So they don’t have any more that makes it more flexible.  And actually, the reason for that is giraffe use their neck to hit each other for protection, for fighting with other giraffe.  So if they had more vertebrae, then it could actually break easier.  Think of a chain, a bigger chain is going to be studier than small, tiny links.

Ok, and also, they have that big tongue that they sometimes reach out and grab food with.

Yeah.  Let’s see if Winston here will stick out his tongue for you.  Sharon’s not too keen.  Oh, he’s going to hide it.  So that big ol’ tongue, that helps them get the leaves off of trees.  It’s a really slimy tongue…one reason I’m wearing gloves.  There’s a lot of saliva happening right now.  It helps them get the leaves off trees.  They can actually wrap it around stuff and pull with it.

If you want to come down here and check out the giraffe at Riverbanks Zoo, they have a whole area.  You walk up on the deck.  You can feed them and get this close to them as well.  So come on down here and have your own Wild Encounter at Riverbanks Zoo.  We’ll see you next time.

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