Congo, a longtime resident of Nashville ZooGiraffe House, knew something was going on Sunday morning. He leaned over the walls of his stall in the zoo barn, nudging the keepers’ heads and positioning himself in front of new faces and cameras.
All of the hoof staff, including the giraffe keepers, were at the zoo before dawn. Another half-dozen people were outside, waving to a trailer that had just completed a 2,000 mile journey.
Inside the trailer was the zoo’s new resident, an addition to the Tazama giraffe herd.
Masai giraffe, Tazama was born and raised at the San Diego Zoo in California.
She was due to move to Music City when she was born and this week she finally made the trip. The 3-year-old giraffe traveled across the country on an Addax, which is bound for Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.
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Putting down a giraffe takes a lot of precision, whether it’s backing a trailer just to make sure the animal can get out of the loading area before heading to the barn.
Tazama was a little nervous, the guards said, as she rushed to her booth. Congo and the zoo’s other giraffe, Nasha, a 6-year-old female, were deliberately in the barn to greet her.
“She’s never lived in a barn before,” said caretaker Jenna Wolczyk. “We wanted her to see hers as soon as possible.”
Nasha, who had trotted around her stall and slammed a basket of food against the stall wall, stopped and watched Tazama walk towards the barn. She watched the young giraffe for a moment, her and Congo full of nervous energy.
The Nashville Zoo has had several giraffes come and go since it added the exhibit in 2006. Congo, who arrived at the zoo when he was about a year old, was one of the zoo’s original three giraffes.
He sired five calves with Margarita, another of the zoo’s original three giraffes, who was euthanized in 2019 due to complications from arthritis. The zoo was also home to a reticulated giraffe
Tazama won’t be the only newcomer to the herd this year. Nasha is pregnant and is expected to give birth to a calf during the holidays. The calf is the first from Nasha, the sixth from the Congo.
Zookeepers are hopeful that when Tazama reaches breeding age, she will also breed with the Congo.
“She’s still a young giraffe. She’s about three and a half years old, hopefully we can breed and continue with our survival plan,” Wolczyks said. “It’s our ultimate hope for her and just having her in the herd.”
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The zoo is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan program and works with zoos across the country to maintain genetic diversity among Masai giraffes, one of the largest subspecies of giraffes. . Masai giraffes were declared endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in 2019.
Over the next few days, Tazama will be slowly moved to a stall next to Congo and Nasha so the giraffes can start to bond, Wolczyk said.
“I hope this will be a calming factor for her. She seems a little nervous. … It will be a whole new setting for her, so we want her to feel comfortable as quickly and as well as possible. she said to me.
Eventually, visitors to the zoo will be able to see her exhibited with the whole herd.
Meghan Mangrum covers education in Nashville for the USA TODAY NETWORK Tennessee. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @memangrum.
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