Flamingo Land Giraffe Heads to the Midlands for Breeding
8:13pm 5th December 2013
Zoo staff at Flamingo Land had to think carefully about how to move a giraffe this week, as they bade farewell to Rufus, one of the young males. Rufus has gone to West Midlands Safari Park to join their herd of giraffes. Fully grown male giraffes can reach 5.5 metres tall – 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. At first glance, these appear just like any other trailer; you’d probably drive past one without a second look. However, once the trailer had been maneuvered into place outside the Flamingo Land 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 the 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 and go back again.
The zoo manager and a head keeper accompanied Rufus on his journey to make sure he arrived safely and settled in well to his new home. As a pure bred Rothschild’s giraffe, Rufus will be used for breeding at West Midlands once he is old enough.
Giraffes grow very quickly, doubling their height in their first year, but they are not mature until they reach four years of age. Males typically aren’t old enough to mate until they are seven years old. 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 on to a new home, the rest of his family here are still at Flamingo Land, including the two youngsters born earlier this year.
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