Not Always Majestic….

Behind the Scenes, Uncategorized

While we often think of animals as majestic figures, poised and ready to survive in their unforgiving wild environment, this is not always the case…. Keepers at Wildlife Safari often see our animals in a more relaxed state, looking – well… less than majestic.

Here are some of the adorable and ridiculous faces we see!

Our female lion, clearly more concerned about where the snacks are than about posing – Photo courtesy of Bryanna Bright

Bandit the American Badger caught doing his morning yoga – Photo courtesy of Bryanna Bright

One of our Sumatran tiger sisters cuddling the wall

Rhinos can be silly too – Photo courtesy of Katie Graves

Lion cub, Dunia, investigating her toy – Photo courtesy of Ashley Lane

Curious Sika deer – Photo courtesy of Katie Graves

Giraffe extreme close up – Photo courtesy of Katie Graves

One of our Sika males with his homemade hat – Photo courtesy of Katie Graves

 

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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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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.

 

 

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