Kelley’s first adventures!

Uncategorized, Ungulates

Wildlife Safari’s first baby giraffe, Kelley, has started adventuring further afield, taking his first trips into the main park! In the months since his birth, Kelley has stayed in the giraffe yard, staying close to the barn and getting used to people and the sight of cars.

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Baby Kelley explores his new surroundings – Photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

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Kelley sticks close to Aunt Erin while he checks out his new surroundings – Photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

It’s going to be a slow transition, just short trips out to start with, especially with cold weather meaning little Kelley will need to stick close to the barn (and the heaters!). Kelley’s keepers are very excited about this new step for the not-so-little guy.

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Kelley and Aunt Erin – Photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

“Kelley has been such a joy for all his keepers and guests!” Shares Erica Sherrow, Lead Ungulate Keeper and one of the keepers that gets to spent time with Kelley. “It has been an amazing experience to watch him grow and for his mom, Miya, to be a great first time mom. We are excited to start bonding with Kelley through some training which he loves. He is his mother’s son and loves all things orange (carrots and yams)!”

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Kelley, Miya and Erin get a snack while on their morning outing – Photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

As he gets used to it, Kelley will be able to spend longer periods of time playing in the main drive through – so keep an eye out for him!

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Healthy Happy Hippos

Behind the Scenes, Uncategorized, Ungulates

Meet Wildlife Safari’s resident hippos! Blippo and Padron, like many of the animals at the park, have regular training sessions with their keepers. As they are such large animals, these sessions are vitally important for their care – being able to ask them to show their teeth allows keepers to make sure they’re healthy everyday, and catch any issues before they become a real problem.


Without using behavioral training for health checks, keepers and veterinarians would need to sedate these large animals to do any kind of check up-which can be stressful for the animal. 

While being able to move the hippos is definitely helpful, it is the open mouthed dental checks that are particularly important. “Our hippo trainers Allison Trout and Tanda Schmidt have done an amazing job communicating with our hippos to do voluntary tooth trims, if need be,” says Erica Sherrow, Lead Ungulate Keeper. “We have been utilizing a drummel to slowly trim their teeth to give them a natural wear. Blippo seems to take delight in the vibrations of the drummel, its almost like a tooth massage! Padron is a bit more shy, but is becoming braver every day.”

Hippos have large incisors that dig up the grasses and vegetation they eat, with the help of incredibly powerful jaws. Since hippos are quite tough on their teeth, regular dental checks can catch cracks or damage before they become too serious.

The biggest little one at Safari

Keeper Chats, Ungulates

This month is a very special time at Wildlife Safari as we celebrate the birth of our first giraffe calf born here since the park began. Little Kelley came into the world at over 6 feet tall, though he looks small next to mother, Miya, our 4 year old reticulated giraffe, and even smaller next to father, Mate, our 17 year old Rothschild giraffe who is our tallest at 18 feet.

 

Baby Kelley and mom Miya – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

The birth has been much anticipated. Since giraffe gestation is around 14 months, keepers have had a while to get excited for this spotted little one! Katie Graves, one of the giraffe keepers and trainers at Wildlife Safari talks about the anticipation through the pregnancy. “Gestation is typically 13-15 months,” she says, and with such a wide window for the due date, keepers were carefully watching for signs of labor long before the birth. “They’re big babies so they have a little longer to bake. They usually come out around 6 ft tall and anywhere from 100-200 lbs at birth. At birth, Kelley was about 6 foot 3 inches and weighed 175 lbs. So he’s very robust and healthy.”

 

Baby giraffe, Kelley -photo courtesy of Tanda Schmidt

Unlike many other animals, herd animals like giraffes need to be able to move by themselves soon after birth to escape predators. “He stood up just a couple of hours after birth and shortly afterwards took his first steps,” says Graves. “He was very strong, he even caught himself when he stumbled.”

 

Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Kelley’s birth is cause for celebration at the park as he is the first giraffe to be born here. “For all of us this is the first time we’ve been through a giraffe pregnancy and birth, so we’re all excited,” says Graves. “Being there for the birth was an amazing experience, and a huge learning experience.”

 

Kelley nursing – photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

At the moment, Kelley is mostly spending time in the barn with his mother, but he has been meeting lots of new friends as guests of the park can sign up to meet him! It’s very special to be able to see a young giraffe, so come see his while he’s “small”! Encounter times may change as he grows, so check with Guest Services before signing up.

 

 

Little Ones Springing into Summer

Uncategorized, Ungulates

As summer approaches, so does one of the best seasons at the park: baby season! Pretty soon babies will start dropping at Wildlife Safari, and our drive through will be full of small Bison, Rhea, and more! It’s a wonderful season, full of new life, but it does get the keepers on their toes a little more than usual. Here at Safari we count and check on every single one of our animals every day, so when little ones start appearing, making sure they have the correct count gets interesting!

A mother wildebeest with her baby

A mother wildebeest with her baby

 

Erica Sherrow, Lead Ungulate Keeper, tells us a little about it. “Baby season is crazy!” She says. “But its a good crazy. It’s a surprise every morning!”

Little blackbuck

Little blackbuck

The Ungulates department looks after 253 animals, and around 20 species. “It’s very hard to find the babies,” says Sherrow. “The Bison are a little easier to see, they look like little cheeto puffs, they are bright orange.” The Fallow deer fawns, however, pose more of a challenge. “The moms do a really good job of hiding them – same with the Blackbuck.”

Fallow fawn

Fallow Fawn

We hope to have babies born from Fallow deer, Blackbuck, Wildebeest, Scimitar horned Oryx, and Bison, however, you can never tell how successful a breeding season has been until the count at the end, or how many young will survive to maturity.

Baby Zebra

Baby Zebra

It is definitely a good time to visit the park, as you never know when babies will arrive. “We’ve had guests come through the park and observe a lot of bison births, and people who have seen the wildebeests,” says Sherrow. “People just get super excited about it. I mean, how often do you get to see a wildebeest give birth?”

Baby wildebeest

Baby wildebeest

For the rhea and emus, however, it’s still breeding season. Alison Trout, who is also a keeper in the Ungulate Department, says the birds are still actively seeking out mates. “They’re still a little flirty,” she says, which can make for some comical behaviors. “The rheas will have their wings out displaying, the emus walk around with their necks super puffed out.”

Rhea and chicks

Rhea and chicks

Of course, our visiting Canadian Geese who migrate in and out of the park with the seasons, are also a part of baby season, with dozens of little goslings running around!

Whether you love baby puff-ball birds or prancing fawns, this spring and summer is definitely the time for a Safari!

A Tower of Giraffes

Creature Feature, Keeper Chats, Ungulates

Last year Wildlife Safari added another member to our group of giraffes (called a tower). Erin has joined our other two giraffes, Miya (4 years old) and Mate (17 years old), and is getting along great! A very curious and adventurous young female, Erin (2 years old) is often the first to greet keepers.

Erin and Miya, our females, are both Reticulated giraffes, and Mate, our resident male, is a Rothschild giraffe – much darker in color.

Miya, Mate and Erin, Wildlife Safari’s three resident giraffes – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Erica Sherrow, Giraffe Keeper and one of their primary trainers, says they all have their distinct personalities and are loveable in their own ways.

Erin and Miya trying for some keeper attention (or some snacks...) - photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Erin and Miya trying for some keeper attention (or some snacks…) – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Erin and Miya get along great, as seen by their snuggle time - photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Erin and Miya get along great, as seen by their snuggle time – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Giraffes are sometimes called the ‘watchtowers of the Serengeti’, since their height lets them be the first to spot danger and alert any other animals nearby. If they start running, so do any other animals nearby, even if they can’t yet see the danger – no one wants to wait to find out if there really is a lion nearby or not!

Giraffes going for a stroll - photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Giraffes going for a stroll – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Giraffes have no vocalization that is audible to humans, they use body language to communicate. Keepers enjoy their expressions when working with them. “They give a lot of sass,” says Sherrow.

During the winter, the giraffes spend more time inside their heated barn. Giraffes are built to live in hot environments, so if it gets below 50 degrees they stay close to their barn.

Our giraffe keepers do training sessions just like with many of our other animals. The giraffes are trained to do some behaviors that make it a little easier to look after them. For example, presenting their feet for checks, or going into their barn and over to the scaffolding that allows keepers to stand at eye level with their tall, spotted friends. This training is mostly to get them used to being handled so that veterinary procedures, checkups and hoof trims can be conducted easily and without stress to the animals. Mate is entirely comfortable being worked on and touched, while Miya is a little more wary, and Erin has been making leaps and bounds with her training. “Erin has been moving through our training program like lightening,” says Sherrow. “We’ve already had her in the chute and been able to touch her.” Keepers use a chute that giraffes stand in, with panels that open to allow keepers to reach through and handle where ever needs attention, keeping a barrier between keepers and those long, strong legs.

Numbers in the wild are dwindling. There are about 80,000 giraffes altogether left in the wild, with less than 1,100 Rothschild and 4,700 Retuculated giraffes. “Mostly through habitat fragmentation and poaching,” says Sherrow. “They’re poached for their hide and tails.” Both poaching and habitat fragmentation are serious threats. If their habitat is lost, they end up having nowhere else to go, since the closest habitat for them may be too far away.

Giraffes in their feeder - photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Giraffes in their feeder – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

They have extremely long tongues (1 inch for every foot they are tall) designed to reach up into branches and grab leaves. These tongues are tough, so they can eat much tougher, spinier foliage than other grazers, including the leaves of the Acacia tree, a spiky plant that is one of their favorites.

For a little while, our Tower had an honorary member, and a stripey one at that! Ruckus, our new Damara zebra took his time finding his way into our zebra herd, choosing instead at first to find some taller friends. He followed the giraffes around for about a week before deciding to join his fellow zebras.

Mate, Miya and Erin with their friend Ruckus the Zebra

Mate, Miya and Erin with their friend Ruckus the Zebra

 

Giraffes with their Zebra friend - photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Giraffes with their Zebra friend – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow