The Garden City Telegram
5/17/2013
SOUTHWEST LIFE

Zoo offers weekend giraffe feeding opportunities

People love to feed animals, and I can't blame them. There is something magical about having a personal experience with a wild animal. Zoo animals are on carefully monitored diets, however, to ensure that they remain healthy. When people feed them items that are not part of their diet, it can make them sick or worse. Just as chocolate and grapes, two foods which seem safe enough, can kill a dog if it eats them, there are many everyday foods which can harm zoo animals as well. This is why you see "please don't feed the animals" signs up throughout the zoo.

We understand the allure and the temptation, however, so the zoo is excited to announce a new opportunity to interact with some of our zoo animals. On Saturdays and Sundays this summer (as weather permits), you can have a close encounter with one of our two male giraffes. Zoo volunteers will be stationed at the giraffe exhibit selling giraffe snacks between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. each weekend. You can purchase one feeding for $2, or three feedings for $5. With your giraffe snack in hand, you will be able to go beyond the public fence to our feeding area where one of the giraffes will take your offering directly out of your hand. This is an extraordinary experience for children and adults alike.

As the giraffe reaches out with his incredible 18-inch tongue, you may notice the immense size of his head. While giraffes are impressive from a distance, it is only up close that one can appreciate their true size. That large head is useful for sparring with other giraffes to establish dominance. The long, black tongue is prehensile, meaning it can wrap around leaves like a hand and skillfully strip trees of foliage and bark. The purplish black coloration of the giraffe's tongue acts as natural protectant to prevent sunburn which is necessary since a giraffe will spend many hours eating every day.

While we encourage you to join us for our weekend giraffe feedings this summer, please remember that all the animals, even the giraffes, are on carefully monitored diets. Please do not feed the giraffes or other animals outside of scheduled feeding times as this can easily make them sick. If you miss a giraffe feeding, the fish and duck pond feeders are still available any time the zoo is open. All proceeds from giraffe feedings support our animal care and help us continue to provide high-quality food, habitats and enrichment for all of our animals. So if you are looking for a fun family activity this graduation weekend, or you are planning a picnic for Memorial Day weekend, stop by Lee Richardson Zoo and take part in one of the wildest activities in town.

Visit www.leerichardsonzoo.org for more information.