7,503 Guests Celebrated Giraffe Survival with Us

Giraffes in the wild begin life with a meager 8% chance of survival into adulthood.  By the age of one, that rate increases to 50%.

That’s why we threw a big party when Kiango the baby giraffe turned one, then followed with a World Giraffe Day celebration. Combined zoo attendance for both days was 7,503 guests.

The zoo’s reticulated giraffes are ambassadors for their cousins in the wild, helping us to educate guests on the difficult situation that wild giraffes face. “Many people don’t know that giraffe numbers are in decline,” says zoo keeper Aimée Nelson, “Two subspecies of giraffes are already endangered. People are calling it the ‘silent extinction’.”

Nelson was pleased with the turnout at both events, “Education is our biggest asset for preventing extinction. Giraffes can’t reverse their population decline on their own. They need our help.”

Baby giraffes are vulnerable to predators, and although their first birthday marks a milestone for their survival rate, other challenges remain. Poaching and habitat loss threaten wild giraffe populations. The zoo is committed to supporting conservation work in Africa and to educating our guests on giraffe conservation.

Why help giraffes? “Most people can’t imagine our planet without giraffes on it,” says Nelson, “There are less than 8,000 reticulated giraffes left in the wild. The time to act is now.”

Here’s what you can do at home to help giraffes in the wild:

  • Visit the zoo! We commit $90,000 annually to conservation projects, including the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Your ticket or membership helps support this effort.
  • Donate your old electronics for use by field researchers. Items currently needed include GPS devices, SD cards, digital cameras, and binoculars. Contact the zoo at (260) 427-6843 for instructions on how to donate.
  • Educate yourself and your children. Our giraffe page is a great place to start!
  • Adopt a zoo giraffe. Your support helps us to care for these important ambassadors.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

New Giraffe at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

There’s a new giraffe at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo!

Faye, a two-year-old female reticulated giraffe, joined the herd this winter.  Her arrival makes a total of eight giraffes in the zoo’s herd.

Is eight enough?

Born at the zoo in Cape May, New Jersey, Faye traveled to Fort Wayne in a specialized truck.  She is not related to either of our male giraffes, so Faye represents a new bloodline that will boost the genetic diversity of the zoo-dwelling giraffe population.  “Faye might breed with Ezeji when she’s mature enough,” says zoo keeper Aimée Nelson, “but that won’t be until she’s at least three to four years old.”

The zoo is committed to ensuring genetic diversity and sustainability within the zoo-dwelling population, and also supports conservation and sustainability of wild giraffes in Africa.  Through financial support, the zoo helps to fund the Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s ongoing research to better understand all nine subspecies of giraffes found throughout Africa.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has confirmed that wild giraffe populations are in a state of decline.  Timely research is critical in the race to effectively estimate numbers that remain in the wild and to assess the status of each subspecies.

For now Faye is getting to know the herd in the zoo’s state-of-the-art giraffe barn.  Nelson says that the new girl plays with young Kiango, who was born in June.  Nelson has also observed a possible bond forming between Faye and Kiango’s mom, Zahra.  Faye also displays some bold personality traits.  “She has a fearless quality and she’s doing very well with her training.  We think she’ll choose to go into the exhibit when the weather allows.”

African Journey manager Amber Eagleson expects Faye to be a “regular” at the feeding platform. “She’s always motivated to eat and accepts treats from keepers, so we think she’ll approach the guests this year.”

You can buy lettuce to feed Faye and the rest of the herd when the zoo opens for the 2016 season on April 23.  Until then, learn more about giraffe conservation in the wild and what you can do to support Faye’s wild cousins.

giraffe fort wayne zoo

Faye the giraffe, shown here as a youngster at New Jersey’s Cape May County Zoo, is the newest member of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s herd.  Photo by Dr. Alexander Ernst.

 

 

giraffe fort wayne zoo

Our Very Own “Rock Star”

Did you know we have a “Rock Star” at the zoo?  That’s what Zoo Keeper Aim’ee Nelson calls Jelani the giraffe!  Other zoo staffers call him “The King of the Platform,” because  there’s no doubt who’s in charge when Jelani rests his massive head on the railing of the feeding platform.   “When Jelani comes up for lettuce everyone wants to feed him,” says Nelson.

Jelani celebrates his 16th birthday this week and just about every staff member, volunteer, and zoo guest has a fond nickname or special memory to share.  African Journey area Manager Amber Eagleson smiles when she talks about meeting him for the first time.  “I came to the zoo in 2000 when he was only two.  He was already friendly…and hungry!”

Eagleson has observed Jelani’s friendly demeanor year after year.  “He makes an impression on everyone.  When someone has worked in the giraffe barn, Jelani is the one they always remember.”

Eagleson shares a story from a 2003 celebration when a crowd gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” to the then 5-year-old giraffe.   “He started running around the exhibit and put on a big show.  No one was expecting it.”

Zoo guests are invited to Jelani’s sweet 16 celebration on Friday, August 1  from 10AM-3PM.  Some highlights include:

– Adding spots to a giraffe art piece

-Singing “Happy Birthday” and presenting Jelani with his “cake” at 11AM

– Trivia games

– Pin the tail on the giraffe

– A birthday card to sign

– A picture spot with a giraffe in his sweet sixteen car

– Coloring pages

You can visit Jelani and the rest of the herd seven days a week.  Lettuce is available for 1 token ($1) and when Jelani the hungry giraffe is on exhibit, he’s usually ready to eat.  “He lays his head on the platform railing until someone comes to feed him,” says Eagleson.  “We have to ask zoo guests to stay back a few feet because of his size and strength, but that doesn’t stop him from getting his lettuce.  He’s never full.”

Below is a gallery of some of Jelani’s memorable moments.  Click on the photos to enlarge: