The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is home to three larger-than-life giraffes: Ellie, Julu and Dimetri. Guests can participate in daily giraffe feedings at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. (weather-permitting).
The matriarch of the Zoo’s giraffe herd, Ellie, 18, has a unique heart-shared pattern on her coat. She arrived at the Zoo in 2008 from her birthplace in Birmingham. Ellie is extremely food-motivated, loves to strip the browse leaves off branches and serves as a “leader” of the group, always the first to explore new things. She gave birth to Julu in 2015.
Like mom Ellie, four-year-old female Julu also has a heart-shaped section on her coat. Her official name, Kabyahjulu, is derived from "obiajulu" meaning "consoled heart". Julu was born at the OKC Zoo and is described by caretakers as a playful prankster who loves to run around her habitat.
Two-year-old male Demetri arrived at the Oklahoma City Zoo in November from his birthplace at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose, Texas. Still an adolescent, he is smaller than the others and has a slightly lighter mane. Demetri is curious, loves to explore and has developed a good relationship with Ellie and Julu, looking to them when he’s unsure how to react to new things. He enjoys snacking on elm and bamboo browse.
The OKC Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative, long-term management program designed to maintain genetically viable and geographically stable populations of specific species.
In the last 30 years, wild giraffe populations have declined by 40 percent due to habitat destruction and poaching with only about 1,700 Rothschild’s giraffes remaining in the wild in isolated parts of Kenya and Uganda.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recognized that giraffes were in need of conservation action and created the Giraffe SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) program. In 2018, the OKC Zoo joined 15 other AZA members to become a Giraffe SAFE partner. Giraffe SAFE partners commit to providing annual financial support for giraffe conservation programs in Africa and promote public awareness about the plight of wild giraffes.
The Zoo has been contributing to giraffe conservation since 2009 by supporting Northern Rangelands Trust in Kenya. This organization establishes community conservancies, helping local people to manage grazing land to reduce competition between livestock and wildlife. This increases the habitat available for giraffes.