Every Monday I get the privilege of hanging out with some very tall and very awesome giraffes at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. It really is the highlight of most of my weeks. I planned to post about this and even lugged my actual camera around with me today to take some up close pictures… apparently it was $2 admission day at the zoo …oops. You know the play place at McD’s on a Saturday? Multiply that times 5,000 and spread it out all over the zoo. That was today.
On most days, not $2 admission days, my job is to let ticket wielding people into the roped off area to feed the giraffes and keep them from trying to pet them, tearing the food into tiny bits and using the food to tease the poor giraffes that just want a piece of lettuce. Seriously wish I liked foliage as much as these animals. I also get to talk about the giraffes and, my favorite part, feed the giraffes to get them to stay up at the overlook when we are in between paying feeders. That’s what is so awesome about my job – I get to interact directly with the animals!
It is interesting to learn the different mannerisms and personalities of each of the giraffes. For example, Luna LOVES to eat, but she’s also the first to leave when R.B. comes over to bully everyone away. This is entertaining to watch because R.B. is still a calf at a 1.5 yrs old and “short” (still over 10ft tall, mind you), yet he will chase all of the older and *much* taller females out of the way, so he can eat. He’s pretty much a hog, but I love him anyway.
I’ve learned things like: giraffes are 6 FEET TALL when they’re born. S-i-x feet. 6. And they’re around 150lbs. That’s like giving birth to Sigourney Weaver. Just take that in for a second. Gestation is 14 months and they give birth standing up, so that’s at *least* a six foot drop for the calf. Also, in the wild the calves have roughly 20 minutes to learn to stand and walk.
It is pretty hilarious watching kids have their first giraffe feeding experience. They come up in line, the brave ones with faces beaming – the shy ones looking timid, but all excited. It doesn’t matter which category they fall into, once that tongue comes out all bets are off, that playing field is level! At 18″ to 22″ long and half purple, half pink, the tongue of a giraffe is unlike anything else they’ve ever seen before. Some think it is a snake, some are terrified, some think it is cool and all of them think the slime (read: saliva) is gross. There are three possible results: laughter (my favorite), squealing (mildly annoying, but still cute) and crying.
The zoo has 10 giraffes total, 3 calves and 7 adults. Duke is the dominate male in the herd and the sire of all the calves. He also has the worst breath. Chloe is the tallest at just over 15.5 feet – beating out Duke, who is a mere 15ft…poor guy. There is also one named Spock. If you donate enough money to the zoo you can name them whatever you want…true story.
Have you ever seen a giraffe trying to sit down? Google it, you will feel like a ballerina. You should also google giraffes drinking water – hilarious. Incidentally, they only drink once every several days in the wild (because they are so vulnerable when they lean down to drink) and can slurp up 40+ liters at a time. Moral of the story: Giraffes rock.