Tall Order

For reticulated giraffes, feeding time is an all-day affair
JABARI — When he’s not eating, this reticulated giraffe loves to play with his new toys // Photograph courtesy of the Detroit Zoo, Tom Roy

Visitors to the Detroit Zoo often make a beeline to the African Grasslands exhibit to see their favorite animals, especially reticulated giraffes Jabari (left) and Kivuli.

If you want a more intimate experience with these gentle giants, stop by the main entrance and purchase a $5 ticket that lets you hand-feed the giraffes (weather permitting) spring through fall.

Don’t worry if there’s a line. These giraffes won’t likely get full before your turn. They eat anywhere from 16 to 20 hours a day, consuming up to 75 pounds of plant-based food. They also rarely sleep more than 20 minutes a day.

The Giraffe Encounter overlooks Jabari and Kivuli’s Egyptian-themed habitat. This elevated platform puts guests at eye-level with the zoo’s tallest creatures. (In winter, the giraffes can be found indoors.)

Kivuli, a 4-year-old female, arrived at the Detroit Zoo in 2010 as a potential mate for Jabari. Five-year-old Jabari made his zoo debut in 2008. He loves discovering new toys provided by the zoo’s staff, and can often be seen flipping objects onto his head and catching them between his fur-covered “horns” (aka ossicones).

The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is the tallest of all land mammals and can grow up to 20-feet-tall. Its long neck enables it to see potential predators and to “battle” other giraffes in social encounters. Surprisingly, their necks have the same number of vertebrae as a human (seven).

If you get a chance to feed the giraffes, have no fear. While their tongues can be up to 22 inches long, giraffes don’t bite. But there’s a good chance you might get licked.

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