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Who’s Your Favorite Giraffe at the Zoo?

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications, with Katie Ahl, Giraffe Keeper

Photos by Stan Milkowski 
Giraffe soak up the sun on the savanna at Woodland Park Zoo.
World Giraffe Day, June 21, is just around the corner and we are excited to proclaim our love for giraffe alongside Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s (GCF) inaugural event for this amazing species. GCF would like to highlight the tallest and longest-necked animal on the longest day (or night, depending on which hemisphere you live in) of the year! By raising awareness and looking at the challenges giraffes face in the wild, we can all help secure the future for these amazing creatures.

Let’s celebrate these graceful, gorgeous animals with a closer look at our own herd at Woodland Park Zoo. Giraffe keeper Katie Ahl gives us the lowdown (err, the high up?) on our four tallest residents.

WPZ: Katie, how long have you been working with giraffe and what is your favorite part?
Katie: I've been at Woodland Park Zoo for five years, and have worked in the giraffe barn for three of those years. I am always in awe of their size, spirit and silence.  (They can make noise but they usually don’t.)   There’s nothing I don’t love about giraffe, but they can be stubborn. They sometimes decide they don’t want to cross to the open savanna exhibit, from their barn area, and they can stand around for 30 minutes… I really have to dig deep on my patience!

Tufani gets low for a grassy snack.
Tufani: female, born July 8, 2008. Sister to Olivia, aunt to Misawa.

Tufani has darker brown spots, bald ossicones and is excessively drooly. Her favorite snack is omolene (a sweet grain). Katie tells us that she is very good at eating the entirety of the browse at the giraffe feed, but that she can get quite impatient while waiting for her treats. She is bold with people, unless that person is a kid in full zebra face paint, in which case she might not cross their path!

Princess Olivia
Olivia: female, born February 27, 2007. Sister to Tufani, mother to Misawa.

Olivia is lighter in color than Tufani, has smooth symmetrical ossicones and a cool “princess-crown” spot on the lower right side of her neck. She is particularly skilled at flinging water when she drinks as well as ignoring her keeper, Katie, and doing whatever she pleases. Olivia does not like being touched, but can be persuaded with her favorite snack, a rye crisp cracker.

Katie tells a funny story about a zoo visitor.  Once a lady came to the zoo and said she could communicate with the animals. We asked her what Olivia was thinking/saying.  The woman replied, “A lot of mumbling, the only word I could make out was ‘heavy’”.  We thanked her and then had a good laugh about it later.  Olivia was very pregnant at the time (with future Misawa) and it seemed fitting.

Young Misawa scouting out the savanna.
Misawa: male, born August 6, 2013. Son to Olivia, nephew to Tufani.

Misawa is the youngest member of the herd. You can spot him easily because he is still much smaller than the other giraffe and very playful. His face is also quite white. His favorite food, just like aunt Tufani, is omolene. A few months shy of a year old, Katie says Misawa is really good at “looking adorable when running around the savanna!” but he is bad at staying out of trouble!

Katie’s favorite Misawa story: Misawa once decided to get a feed bucket stuck on his head for a couple of minutes.  It was pretty funny to look at.  I wasn't sure how I was going to help him, but then he just tilted his head and it came right off. He was very calm about the whole thing, but I was pretty worried!

Our newest giraffe, Dave! This photo was taken by Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society.
Dave, male, born November 12, 2012. Newest member of the herd!

Dave has a dark brown head, and is covered in thin white lines with solid brown patches. Keepers tell us he has a super long tongue, which he uses to grab his favorite treat, leaf-eater biscuits. Since coming to Woodland Park Zoo, he has been very good at training and working with his new keepers. Katie says to watch out for his long legs: at Brookfield Zoo, from where he came, he jumped over a small fence and walked through a door to get back inside his barn, defying his keepers and giving them a little challenge! 

Tufani with her long-legged nephew, Misawa.
So which giraffe is your favorite? 

We think they are all pretty great! In their native habitat, giraffe and wildlife species that share the east African plains are facing extreme habitat loss and destruction, primarily from human-animal conflicts. With fewer than 80,000 giraffe remaining in the wild, you can help support conservation efforts by:
  • Visiting Woodland Park Zoo which supports the Tarangire Elephant Project, a protected area for giraffe, elephants and various vulnerable species to provide a healthy environment for wildlife.
  •  Give them a shout. Share this post and get your friends to show their love for giraffe!
And don’t forget to watch the Giraffe Barn Cam (Dave Cam)! Our newest giraffe is in quarantine at the giraffe barn. We’ll be sure to announce when he’s ready to debut on the savanna, but for now you can sneak a peek at what he is up to at the barn: