Giraffe Keepers have been trialling a new enrichment puzzle for Taronga’s giraffes. The animals are using their 45cm tongues to reach food treats placed inside a Perspex and wooden box with holes cut in the side.
Senior giraffe keeper, Johny Wade, said: “This enrichment item is designed to utilise the giraffe’s natural bio-tools - their tongues, to stimulate them physically and mentally by doing something out of the ordinary.”
“The tongue of a giraffe is their portal to the world; they use them like we use our hands. Their tongues are prehensile so they use them to grab branches and leaves,” said Johny.
“Their tongues are so dexterous they can tear leaves off branches that have thorns up to 10cm long. This means they get to feed on the leaves, which other animals find far too hostile to eat.”
“The Perspex on the side of the box allows the giraffes to see the food inside and plan what they’ll do with it and how to get it out. It’s quite a new, weird looking enrichment item for them so thus far only the bravest giraffes have tested the water and given it a try.”
“Nyota, our oldest giraffe, went straight for the box whereas our male Jimiyu was trying to get in from the wrong side. It’s very entertaining to watch.”
The new puzzle box is part of the giraffe’s new enrichment schedule and will be given to the giraffes once a fortnight. Guests visiting the Zoo around 10:30 during the school holidays might be able to catch the giraffes with one of their puzzles of the day.
Sadly giraffe numbers in the wild are continuing to decline. Visitors to Taronga can make a difference by purchasing Beads for Wildlife at one of Taronga’s retail stores. All profits go direct to giraffe conservation in Africa and Taronga supports world Giraffe Day on June 21.