Experience Giraffe Safari!
The Abilene Zoo’s exciting new Giraffe Safari exhibit is the result of four years of staff and volunteer work and $3.8 million of support from the community. An impressive 1,000 people and organizations donated to the project, which opened in April 2016. The multi-species exhibit is 30,400 square feet – double the space of the old giraffe habitat, allowing the animals to run and display more behaviors found in the wild.
The feeding deck is part of an area dubbed Twiga Terrace; “Twiga” is Swahili for “giraffe.” Open daily for the season: Hours are 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Open until 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays all summer!
Guests can experience giraffe encounters on the new deck, hand-feeding the giraffe healthful romaine lettuce, available for $4. The zoo’s herd is comprised of four adult female reticulated giraffe, one male Rothschild giraffe and one young male reticulated giraffe. The zoo is breeding this endangered species according to the direction of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. Indeed, one female, Punk, is already pregnant and due this fall!
Giraffe have a storied history at the Abilene Zoo. Abilene received its first pair of young giraffe in 1968 thanks to an anonymous donation of $10,000. The mayor declared May 24, 1968, as “G-Day” and cut the ribbon on the “Highneck Bridge.” The community fell in love with the animals. Indeed, the bridge was cutting-edge zoo design in its day — making Abilene one of the first zoos in the nation to let guests interact with the leggy animals.
GIRAFFE IN THE WILD
Other African Animals in Giraffe Safari:
These omnivores live in the scrubs and grasslands of Africa and have lifespans of up to 150 years. Aldabras are the second largest tortoise in the world – second only to the Galapagos tortoise. Interestingly, Charles Darwin had a hand in saving the species from extinction when he asked government officials to protect their breeding grounds.
Angolan Colobus Monkeys
These monkeys live in the rainforests of Africa and are vulnerable because of diminishing habitat. Unlike other monkeys, Colobus do not have thumbs, but they manage to swing gracefully using four digits cupped in the shape of a hook. Our troupe likes to dine on vegetables and nap.
Red River Hogs
Our colorful pair is a guest favorite! Red river hogs lives in the African rainforest, dining on berries, roots, and other plants, as well as small reptiles and insects. We have a male and female named Shooter and Amber. When Shooter catches up in size to the female, the two will be a breeding pair.
This petite member of the antelope family typically lives in the rainforests of central Africa, dining on fallen fruit, nuts, flowers and fungi. The smallest of these can weigh in at only 8 pounds, spending 75 percent of its day foraging for food.
These large birds are thought to be the heaviest creature capable of taking flight, which they only do when in danger. Native to the grasslands of Africa, they are ground-dwellers that dine on insects and reptiles.
The intriguing birds like to keep an eye on zoo guests. Their kinfolk live on the savannahs of Africa and are known for not being too picky about food. They’re scavengers that will eat anything. Their lifespan can be 25 to 40 years, and they mate for life.
MEET THE GIRAFFE
Born: Abilene Zoo, Sept. 10, 2016
The first birth in the new Giraffe Safari area was this little darling to proud parents Punk and Mesi — an AZA Species Survival Plan- approved breeding pair.
He was 120 pounds when born, and has grown to more than 300 pounds and is more than 7 feet tall.
His name means “pineapple” in Swahili. The tropical fruit was animal staff’s code word on the radio for when his mom went into labor! He is Punk’s first calf, and her parenting has been fabulous!
He’s easy to spot — as the baby of the herd!
Born: Tulsa Zoo on July 17, 1997
The senior lady of the herd, Abilene Zoo fans have admired Asha for nearly two decades — since she arrived here as a youngster.
How to Spot Her: She has the shortest tail and a long history of eating from guests’ hands. She is “aunting” little Kito.
Born: White Oak Conservation Center in Florida on June 10, 2009
One of the newest to our herd, she arrived at the Abilene Zoo in 2016 after time at the Dallas Zoo.
How to Spot Her: She has the longest tail of all the females and has darker coloring.
Born: Fossil Rim Wildlife Center on Nov. 27, 1999
Zoo guests have gleefully handfed Punk rye crackers for many years. Now she gets a healthier diet! She is an approved animal to breed with Mesi.
How to Spot Her: She has a little notch in her left ear and is caring for her new calf, which was born Sept. 10. It is her first time for being a mom, and she’s doing great! If she snorts at you, it’s because she is acting protective of her little one.
Born: Dallas Zoo on July 23, 2011
Jamie is named after James Camden Sikes, a Dallas infant who died from a brain tumor. She is an approved animal to breed with Mesi.
How to Spot Her: Her face is darker and her spots are highly contrasted with bright white outlines.
Born: Fossil Rim Wildlife Center on Dec. 27, 2015
His name was chosen in a public naming contest and means “precious gem” in Swahili. He’s almost 7 feet tall and weighs roughly 250 pounds — and growing!
How to Spot Him: He’s smallest (for now!) of the giraffes.
Born: San Diego Zoo Safari Park on March 4, 2005
Mesi arrived at the Abilene Zoo in 2014 from the Little Rock Zoo. He weighs roughly 2700 pounds and is more than 18 feet tall!
How to Spot Him: He’s the tallest of the herd, and his coloring is much darker. He also loves to eat from Twiga Terrace!