Happy World Giraffe Day! Today we celebrate the longest-necked animal in the world, on the longest day of the year! Here at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, we have five Maasai Giraffes in our herd. Our three adult females are Tessa, CeCe, and Zoey. Then we have two younger males named Fennessey and Theo.
Fennessy recently turned two years old and was born on the same week as World Giraffe Day! He was also named after Julian Fennessy, the founder of World Giraffe Day.
Meet Our Giraffe
Tessa is the oldest in our herd at 14 years old, she is the mother to Fennessy, and an easy way to tell her apart is by the pie shape on the front of her chest. She is very friendly and is always happy to get lettuce from her friends at the feeding deck. Tessa also loves to participate in training with her keepers. She allows us to take xrays, do regular hoof trims of all 4 of her feet and she allows voluntary blood draw.
Cece is 10 years old and is the mother to Theo. She has a very sweet and sort of shy personality. She loves to train with her keepers but does things at her own pace. A fun way to tell her apart from the others are by the spots on her chest that almost spell her name. Look close and you’ll find a “C” and an “E” on the front of her chest.
Zoey will be 5 later summer and is easy to tell apart by her floppy left ear. She was a bit of a clumsy calf and injured her ear when she was just a few months old. Her injury was treated by vet staff and her ear is fine, it just hangs down a little. She is generally a very shy giraffe but loves her treats and will tear open boxes to get to her favorite food items.
Fennessy recently turned two and is growing up so fast! He is almost 13 ft tall which is almost as tall as his mom, Tessa, who is 14 ft tall. His favorite toys are bamboo windchimes. His keepers are constantly repairing them because he plays with them so much they are always breaking.
Theo is the youngest and smallest in our herd. He will be 2 in November and is only about 10.5ft tall. He is such a sweet boy and is a Rockstar trainee. He was less than a year old when we got his first xrays and he now allows for voluntary blood draw and gets regular hoof trims. His favorite enrichment item is anything with peanut butter.
Hundreds of hours and thousands of crackers went into teaching Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s giraffes to participate in their own hoof care. Giraffes are known to be nervous and skittish, so getting one to offer a foot and stand still while it’s being touched and handled by a keeper is no small accomplishment. The hoof trimming procedure doesn’t hurt, but it’s not exactly a pampering experience like a human pedicure! The fact that our giraffe team, led by Teresa Truesdale, has been able to teach all five of our giraffes, including two young males, to allow their feet to be handled is truly remarkable.
Foot health is vitally important for a species that has to balance a lot of weight on extra-long legs. The ability to perform maintenance with the animal’s cooperation allows the team to do regular checkups without the risks associated with anesthesia. Several small behaviors, each taking weeks to learn, had to be taught before the foot was ever touched. The first step was to get the giraffe to recognize a “target” and touch it with its nose. That behavior gets reinforced until it is learned. Then other behaviors, like lifting a foot, getting used to seeing a block in the barn, placing a foot on the block, and curling the foot under, are added and repeated.
The goal is to make sure that the giraffes are comfortable and active. Hoof overgrowth can lead to broken bones, torn ligaments, and general pain that ultimately discourages movement.
How To Help
World Giraffe Day is an annual event that celebrates these amazing animals and raises awareness for the struggles they face in the wild. Due to habitat loss from agriculture and human development, fragmentation, and poaching, giraffes are now considered endangered. This means that they are currently at a very high risk of going extinct in the wild. Fortunately, there are several ways we can help protect giraffes and their habitat!
Here at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, you can help save giraffes by attending a behind-the-scenes tour with our five giraffes! Proceeds from this experience help fund research and conservation of Maasai giraffes in Tanzania, through the Wild Nature Institute. The Wild Nature Institute studies giraffes in the wild to understand where they are surviving the most and learn how we can better protect them and their habitat. We also partner with the African Conservation Centre in Kenya, which studies the geographical movement of giraffes. This research allows scientists to figure out how much land giraffes need to successfully survive.
You can also help by A.D.O.P.T.ing a giraffe! By becoming a Cincinnati Zoo A.D.O.P.T. Parent, you help to provide food, toys, and fun enrichment items to our Zoo’s animal family. Join us as we continue to provide world-class care to the animals you love!
We can also help conserve giraffes, the environment, and other animals in our own homes by reducing our carbon footprint! Our carbon footprint reflects how much waste we produce, the electricity and gas we use, and how much we recycle or reuse. A few simple ways we can help reduce our carbon footprint include using a reusable water bottle instead of plastic single use bottles, buying locally grown food, and turning off lights or unplugging devices when you are not using them!
We hope you can come to visit our Maasai giraffe to help celebrate World Giraffe Day!