As of this week the public can get up close and personal to the giraffes at Giraffe Encounter at the Denver Zoo thanks to another generous project sponsored by our Denver Toyota Dealers Association. Giraffe Encounter is a $190,000 habitat renovation allowing zoo guests and giraffes this new interaction. Up close and personal means hand-feeding Dikembe, Heshimu, Masika and Kipele. Denver Parent was allowed a preview with a young tester of the new exhibit for the encounter and here was the view from a four year-old’s perspective:
The kiddo had a great time getting close to these beautiful creatures and following along with the Denver Zoo’s mission to “Secure a better world for animals through human understanding.” The zoo has educators on hand for guests of all ages to learn more about these animals and their habitats. While we were feeding the animals we were taught why their tongues are black, about ossicones, and that they have reticulated tongues. Our young tester was calling their names, speaking kindly to the animals, and is still talking about the experience a week later using these words he learned.
Giraffe Encounter has been carefully planned for zoo guests and the animals. The platforms are designed for the animals to lean over to receive lettuce but still keep their bodies a safe distance from zoo guests. The giraffes are encouraged to interact with guests but are not pressured to have to perform if they do not want to. If you want to learn more about this positive-reinforcement behavior training that is used zoo-wide attend the Toyota Elephant Passage Amphitheater show nearby that happens two times a day. The giraffes are at a very low-risk for disease transmission. The lettuce the public feeds the giraffes does not affect their monitored diets since it is mostly water content. And this new Giraffe Encounter adds to the enrichment the giraffes already experience with other stimuli their keepers innovate for them.
The Giraffe Encounter exhibit is open to the public now as part of general zoo admission. The cost to feed the giraffes is $5 for three pieces of lettuce. The exhibit has specific feeding times that are still being explored by the time of this posting.
Children and adults safely getting closer to these gentle creatures will be a memorable zoo experience you will not want to miss.
Kia Ruiz is a mom, wellness advocate, and yoga instructor. You can find her at Bodhi Bear.