Zoo staff at Flamingo Land had to think carefully about how to move a giraffe, as we bade farewell to Rufus, one of our young males. Rufus has gone to West Midlands Safari Park to join their herd of giraffes and unlike some animals, a giraffe isn’t something that can be put in a carrier and taken somewhere in the back of your car! Fully grown male giraffes can reach 5.5 metres – the same height as a double decker bus. Rufus isn’t that tall yet but he certainly needed specialist transportation.
Giraffes are transported in purposely designed trailers. Once the trailer had been manoeuvered into place outside our giraffe house, the sides were extended upwards until they were even taller than a giraffe. They then lock in place at the correct height for the journey. The next task was to coax Rufus into the trailer. Giraffes can be quite skittish animals and no-one wanted to panic Rufus. He was allowed into a corridor leading to the trailer and then one of our keepers called to him from the far end of the trailer while two others moved slowly behind Rufus with a large board so that he couldn’t turn around. He was quite well behaved and ended up in the trailer without too much fuss – perhaps the food he was given as a reward helped!
As a pure bred Rothschild’s giraffe, Rufus will be used for breeding at West Midlands once he is old enough. Rothschild’s giraffes are classed as endangered, with only a few hundred individuals left in the wild, so captive breeding schemes are important in preserving genetic diversity. Rothschild’s giraffes have historically been considered to be a subspecies of giraffe but in 2007 it was suggested that they are actually a separate species. Rothschild’s giraffes can be distinguished by their orange-brown patches on a cream coloured background and the fact that they don’t have markings on their lower legs, making it look as though they have white socks on. Although Rufus has moved we still have all the rest of the family here at Flamingo Land, including the two youngsters born earlier this year. If you’d like to meet them close up, why not book one of our new Giraffe Encounters? Call 0871 9118000 for details!