You’ll find a herd of 7 reticulated giraffes in the African Journey, the smallest among them weighing in at a whopping 1600 pounds! Even their tales measure up to four feet in length! It’s no surprise that these are the largest animals at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.
The zoo cares for these towering mammals in a state-of-the-art facility. Here, the giraffes come in every night and sleep in their stalls. Some of the girls share stalls, but since the boys are prone to fighting, they’re kept separate. Each stall has some straw, a layer of shavings, and a thick rubber mat for the giraffes to use as bedding.
According to Giraffe Keeper Aimee Nelson,
Giraffes will sleep laying down or standing up. Often though, it’s usually for about 5-7 minutes at a time and only for a total of maybe an hour and a half a day.
Giraffe keepers feed these tall animals grain twice a day, though they really eat all day long. Their 4 stomach compartments are always hungry. In fact, on average, each giraffe eats about 70 pounds of food per day. In total, they feed over 100 pounds of grain to the herd of 7. For enrichment, staff also make puzzle-feeders with leafy greens like zucchini, spinach, lettuce, grape-vine leaves, and alfalfa.
The biggest of the herd, 16-year-old Jelani, towers 16ft tall, weighs over 2500 pounds, and uses his 18” long tongue to pull leafy greens out of the puzzle feeders.
Have you ever heard a giraffe roar? They are capable, but typically communicate infrasonically in a way that humans can’t here.
The bumps on their heads? Those are called osicombs and serve several purposes, including moving tree branches out of the way, thermo-regulating body temperature, and defense. Speaking of defense, giraffes are most vulnerable when they’re young. Once they’re an adult, they can run up to 37 mph and can swing their head like a wrecking ball – with the force of about 600 lbs. In fact, according to Aimee:
They have been known to decapitate lions by kicking them. It’s not uncommon for them to kill a predator.
Even though giraffes are no match for hyenas, leopards, and lions, they’re still very close to being endangered - because of humans. There has been a large drop in the population over the past 10 years due to poaching and habitat destruction.