Greedy George the giraffe celebrates his birthday

George the giraffe
George the giraffe

Here at Flamingo Land the zoo keepers and staff will be celebrating the birthday of one our most iconic and well known animals at the zoo.

George the giraffe turns 12 Saturday. He is our breeding bull male and has fathered nine calves in his time here so he has been very successful indeed. He is a Rothschild giraffe which is an endangered species with only around 1,500 in their native country of Uganda.

If anyone would like hand feed George then encounters can be booked online in advance or on the day from the gift shops and holiday village reception. They cost £25 per person and are limited to only four spaces and are extremely popular. For those who have met George they will know he is very greedy and as well as very confident.

In the wild giraffes can live up to 25 years, however, in captivity they can live longer due to a constant supply of food and veterinary care.

Giraffes are the tallest animals on the planet and have evolved their unique physiology to take advantage of feeding on the fresh leaves, flowers and bark at the very tops of trees. Despite having incredibly long necks, they still only have seven cervical vertebrae or neck bones, exactly the same number as humans.

A giraffe tongue can reach to around 45cm (18inch) long, which is prehensile allowing them to reach in and grasp leaves between the long thorns of acacia trees on which they regularly feed and are bluish black in colour and covered in thick saliva to prevent sun burn and drying out.

They have excellent eyesight, and along with their unique vantage point, they are able to spot danger from a huge distance. Lions are the only real predator.

Giraffe numbers are falling and they have seen a 40% reduction in numbers over the past 30 years. This is thought to be down to habitat loss, drought brought on by global warming and hunting for their meat, skins and tail hairs that are used to make fly swishes and jewellery. This is why George plays a vital role in preserving such a wonderful species and his success is there for all to see here at Flamingo Land with several of his young calves living amongst him at the zoo.