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Saturday, June 21, 2014

World Giraffe Day

It's the first day of summer (in the northern hemisphere, at least)!  And on the longest day of the year, we celebrate the tallest animal in the world.  It's the first ever World Giraffe Day!

Giraffes are one of the most iconic of zoo animals, and have been beloved by visitors for decades.  When the first captive giraffes arrived in Europe, they created a sensation like no other animal before them.  Today they are fairly common in captivity - they breed well and have a stable population.   They're an animal that many of us think we know.  They're tall, they have long necks, they eat leaves, come from Africa... what else is there to say?

In truth, sometimes I think giraffes are an iconic enigma.  There is so much we don't know about them.  For example, they seem so quiet and unsociable.  I've spent hours watching giraffes in Africa dotted across the landscape, seemingly paying no more attention to their distant neighbors than if they were termite mounds.  "Seemingly," I say... because we know now that giraffes are always communicating with each other with sounds too low for the human ear to register.

Another myth which has unfortunately became popularly believed is that giraffes are doing fine in the wild.  When we think of the endangered species of Africa, we'll mention gorillas, cheetahs, the white and black rhinos... not giraffes.  In truth, these exciting ungulates are threatened by habitat loss, hunting, disease, and genetic isolation.  And there are few things worse for an endangered species than no one acknowledging that you are endangered.

Giraffes are one of the main draws at our zoos.  They've been good to us.  We need to be good to them.  That means not only providing the best possible care for giraffes in zoos.  It means raising awareness, funds, and support for the protection of giraffes in the wild.

Learn more about Giraffe Conservation here!

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