In addition to seeing thousands of amazing animals from around the world at the Oklahoma City Zoo, guests also have the chance to feed some of them – including our giraffes!
Giraffes are what we call browsers; that means they eat leaves, bark, and green stems from plants. They spend up to 75 percent of their day browsing! Right by the giraffe exhibit we have a feeding platform where guests have the opportunity to meet our giraffes and feed them browse, the term for twigs and young shoots of vegetation.
There you’ll meet Ellie, our 16-year-old Reticulated giraffe, and her offspring, Julu. Ellie enjoys all types of food but can be particular about texture. Our youngest giraffe, Julu, is 15 months old and is among our most particular eaters. She prefers mulberry and elm. At the ages of 31 and 27, our two eldest giraffes, Ursula and Noel, don’t always make the trek to the platform but they can be seen foraging in the yard and occasionally interacting with the ostrich and gazelle. Ursula, our oldest and wisest giraffe, gives everything a good smell test before trying it. She only accepts the finest and best dining experience at this stage in her life. However, Noel, born on Christmas Day 1988, is happy to accept anything offered to her.
When you feed our giraffes, you may notice they have an exceptionally long tongue; up to 18 inches! Their tongues are prehensile (capable of grasping) and dark at the tip. It is believed that this dark tip helps to protect them from the sun’s damaging rays. Another key feature of our giraffes is that they have no front top teeth. If they were to smile, it would look much like many people’s first grade pictures! They use their long tongues, the roof of their mouth and their bottom teeth to strip the leaves from trees and use their large flat molars in the back to grind down the browse.
Giraffes are amazing creatures that you should see for yourself – up close! Guests are able to feed the giraffes from 1–1:30 p.m. every day through October. Beginning in November, feeding times will change but will be posted on okczoo.org. The cost is $5 per person in addition to regular zoo admission.
– Lisbeth Pisias, animal caretaker
Photo: Lori Carpenter