Behind the Scenes: Inside the giraffe barn

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Behind the Scenes: Inside the giraffe barn


Where do some of the Zoo’s animals go in the winter?

If you haven’t had the opportunity to go on a behind the scenes tour, you probably haven’t noticed the animal holding areas we have in the Zoo. While many of our animals are out year-round, some go off exhibit into a holding area for the winter.

Today I am taking you behind the scenes with me to see inside the Africa barn, which was a short trek from the Zoo administrative offices.



I met up with Aaron Stone, one of the Zoo’s animal keepers, and Robyn Scanlon, one of our temporary keepers this winter, who showed me around the barn. The Zoo has a total of four full time, one temporary and one seasonal staff working with our large mammals, which include giraffe and watusi, as well as the new eland and rhinos (they have their own holding area and will be on exhibit this spring!).

Since it was a balmy winter day, the watusi were on exhibit, but slowly headed our way when we called them over.



Aaron took me to the top floor of the barn, where I could see the giraffe from the top of their exhibits. Boy, were they excited to see me!



 The girls were thisclose to me. Gah!

The Zoo's male giraffe, Jakobi

On my way back down, I snapped a photo of the massive amount of hay bales, which is just a small fraction of the hay for the giraffe and watusi all winter long. (We have barns just filled with hay. Really.) The giraffe alone eat through a bale and a half in one day!



The Zoo has a total of five giraffe: Jakobi the male is 7 years old, and the females are Shani (19), Samburu (18), Uzuri (15) and Sabra (2).

Aaron says that the giraffe seem more relaxed during the winter months and seem to like the security of the barn. The girls stay together in one pen, while Jakobi gets one all to himself. He is the tallest at 15 feet, just shy of the barn’s 19’6” roof.


Because the animals are inside, keepers stay busy with more clean-up of the facilities to ensure the animals are safe and comfortable. Apparently herding the giraffe from one stall to another in order to clean is one of the hardest tasks!

The winter time also allows for more enrichment and training time for the giraffe. All of the giraffe are target trained, where they learn to stick their nose to the target, and they are learning to back up as well as giving blood draws for their health. They are rewarded with rye crisps or another treat.

The browse stick pictured below is one of the enrichment items they enjoy – they chewed and tore off the branches within a matter of minutes! They enjoy playing with the browse and a ball that hangs from the ceiling, as well as digging through treat buckets.


Giraffe enrichment: browse stick (above) and ball (below) 


Forgive the cell phone quality. I got all the way out to the barn to discover no card in the camera. Whoops!

The girls gazing out the window

Sabra strikes a pose

Giraffe eat twice a day – within a few hours after sunrise and a few hours before sunset. In addition to hay, they also eat pelleted grains. Between the hay and the grains, each giraffe eats about 30 pounds of food in one day, about 15 pounds of each. They are big animals! 

During the summer, it is a fun opportunity to feed the giraffe. If you haven’t gotten a chance to do it, I highly recommend it! For the giraffe to be on exhibit, it has to be consistently warm (around 60 degrees) with no snow or ice on the ground. An unseasonably warm day doesn’t mean they will be on exhibit, as we have to look out for their safety.

You can look forward to their return in the spring!


01/11/2013 9:08 AM |Add a comment |Comments (3)
Bob -- stay tuned for future posts!

Blank Park Zoo | 01/17/2013 9:03 AM
I'd love to know where the cats go during the winter.

Bob Lipman | | 01/16/2013 8:48 PM
Thanks for sharing! My son loves the giraffes so it was nice to pull this up and say hi!

Kristin Salge | | 01/11/2013 10:27 AM
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