We tried something new this year. We bought tickets for something called the Wild Encounters Tour. There are actually 4 different tours: Manatee Coast, Discovery Reef, Animal Hospital and .... wait for it... Giraffe Barn. Can you guess which one we picked?
A keeper met us at a designated spot in the African area and took us on a tour that lasted about an hour and included a feeding session. (That alone was worth the cost because we didn't have to stand in line in the sun to wait to feed them!) There were only 5 other people in this group with Hubs and me, and it was nice to have a small group. Because I'm getting anxious to share, I'm not going to save the best for last. Here is the giraffe I got to feed:
The keeper first took us into the kitchen in the giraffe barn and talked all about the kinds of food they get. He showed us the different storage areas for hay and "browse" which is basically different types of tree branches with leaves on. He also talked about how they try to make feeding time interesting for the giraffes by making them get their feed pellets out of big jars with holes in - they have to stick their long tongues in to get their food. He said they like to bang the jars around and make noise with them.
We learned a lot of facts about the giraffes. Did you know their tongues are 18" long? (Ours are about 4.5".) The two tallest giraffes in this herd are about 18' tall! Their hearts weigh 25 pounds and their heads weigh 500 pounds! Newborns are 6' tall when they are born after about 14 months gestation. The zoo has 10 in the herd - 8 males and 2 females. These 10 are of 2 species: reticulated and Masai. You can tell them apart by looking at their spots. The one pictured above is reticulated - the spots are very clearly defined with very bright white lines. This next photo shows a Masai - the spots are more mottled and the lines between are not quite as bright and distinct.
Sometimes these two types will interbreed in the wild, but it is rare. Both of the females in this herd are Masai, and their main bull is a Masai as well, so they are hoping some baby-making will happen this year!
In this next photo you will see a giraffe licking something:
That is kind of like the water bottle you might have in a hampster cage that has a little ball at the end. When they push their tongue against it, the water just flows. There are some in the barn, too. Here is what it looks like up close:
The barns were amazingly clean. I was really impressed. (I guess they wouldn't show them off if they weren't?!)
The feed bins and water licks are all adjustable height to accommodate the different giraffes. The big area in the last photo that looks pink is the "social" area in the barn where they let multiple giraffes hang out together. It is layered with several layers of different things, the top being crushed granite. Because of the composition of this floor, it can just be raked and sprayed with water for cleaning and doesn't have to be shoveled. Some floors in this barn are regular cement and some are heated in case an animal is sick or needs special heat treatment.
These next 2 photos show the pen the giraffes are placed in to be checked by the vets.
The first photo with the green pads is the pen where a giraffe is held for examination. The padded side panels can be adjusted to hold the animal as tightly as necessary to keep it still. Then the keepers and vets can ride up and down in the little elevator (where the tool box is). Notice that the padded holding area has doors at different levels which can be opened to access different parts of the animal.
If you are lucky enough to get to go to the Columbus Zoo, I would recommend taking a Wild Encounters Tour. We really got a beind-the-scenes look at an area the public rarely sees, and it was very interesting!
Lest you think we ONLY looked at the giraffes, let me share some other cuties:
This baby moose is new this season and he was sleeping.
Then there are the big cats:
The Cheetahs are amazing!!!
Papa Lion has a tongue thing going on....
Mama Lion was having a staring contest with a Greater Kudu female. They are not very far apart and were clearly watching each other, but there is a moat and a fence beween them, so the Kudu is safe.
I could just hang out in the African Savanah area all day! The African Region also has a great restaurant that we tried this year. It's called The Mapori. One thing that is unique about it is that it is a 4 Star Certified Green restaurant, and the first one of it's kind in central Ohio to earn this distinction. When we first went in, I expected it to be fast food, but it's not. It was a buffet of "real" food - patrons would ask the servers to dish up whatever they wanted. They had large flat breads with either veggie or meat toppings, salads, fruit, lasagna, roasted chicken, roasted vegetables (like eggplant and zuchini) other types of cooked veggies like carrots and green beans, chicken tenders and fries. I'm sure there was more I'm forgetting. The selection was very impressive. Most of the food is made from scratch daily, so they are conserving by not using packaging. The food is also more nutritious and flavorful because it is fresh. The seating area was huge and part of it looked out onto the savanah, so you could watch the animals while you ate. For sure, we are eating there again! Amazing food!
Ah, what a lovely day it was for us at the zoo! Hubs got his annual serving of Dippin' Dots too! Then we let them survey us as we were leaving, and we got 2 $5 off coupons that we can use in the future! We were both exhausted when we got home, but it was a good kind of exhaustion, and I'm ready to go again any time!
Thanks for reading - come back again soon!