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Giraffe Feeding Stations--
Yippee! Yucky! You might touch a giraffe's tongue!
In the photo slide show above, you've been viewing fun pictures of giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We'll be talking about giraffe feeding stations on this page---and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has one of the best ever! As you can tell from the pictures of the baby giraffe included in the slide show, this large herd contains all ages. You'll find plenty of hungry giraffes just waiting for you to feed them!
But, just in case you won't be visiting Colorado Springs any time soon, this page also talks about giraffe feeding stations in several other places throughout the Southwestern USA which might be more convenient for you.
Would you like to hand-feed a giraffe?
Have you ever wanted to feed a giraffe? How could you do that? A giraffe is SO TALL! In fact, giraffes are the tallest land mammal. Adult female giraffes grow to the height of about 16 feet tall, while adult male giraffes are even taller---about 18 feet from the top of his head to the tips of his toes! So, how could a human ever hope to feed a giraffe? We humans are so short by comparison! Even the baby giraffes stand 6 feet tall---about the height of a fairly tall grown man.
Well, the good news is that you CAN feed giraffes! You just have to be in the right place to do it!
A number of zoos these days feature giraffe feeding stations, where you can purchase giraffe crackers or giraffe pellets, then hand-feed full-grown giraffes---by standing on a tall platform which will let you reach their heads!
In the Southwest USA, there are several zoos which have giraffe feeding stations. For example, at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona, there's a giraffe feeding station which runs on a "schedule." That is, you can't feed giraffes all day long, but at a certain set time of day, you can line up to feed crackers to the giraffes. (Giraffe feeding time was at 2:00 pm on the day I last visited, but the zoo's website is now mentioning a 10 am feeding hour. Be sure to check as you enter the zoo for the giraffe feeding time on the day of your visit.) The cost in Spring 2009 was $2 per person, and included 2 crackers.
The Wildlife World Zoo in greater Phoenix, Arizona has an even more liberal policy about giraffe feeding. A tall platform remains open to the public all day long. Guests can purchase special "giraffe pellets" from a gumball-type machine for a quarter per handful of pellets. Ths Wildlife World Zoo doesn't have many giraffes...but, on the other hand, this small zoo's crowds aren't too thick, either...so you're most likely to get plenty of "up close & personal" time with the giraffes if you visit here. (You can see the Wildlife World Zoo's Giraffe Feeding Station in the picture just above.)
Most of this page, however, will be spent talking about the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo of Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is a "must visit zoo" for anyone who is a giraffe-lover. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has the hugest giraffe feeding station in the western USA, and a herd of 19 giraffes just waiting to stick their tongues out at you and grab some yummy-tasting giraffe crackers! The zoo's giraffe crackers cost $1 for 3...and it's money well-spend for anyone who adores a little animal interaction! (It's the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's feeding station that you can see in the photo to your right.)
Giraffe Feeding Stations: What do giraffes eat?
In the wild, giraffes live only on the continent of Africa. Africa is home to the Acacia tree, which is the giraffe's favorite delicacy. Though the acacia tree is thorny, giraffes skillfully use their long tongues to pick around the thorns and grab the delicious leaves. Nevertheless, if a giraffe accidentally eats a thorn, it doesn't bother him or her. Why doesn't it? Humans couldn't eat thorns because---OUCH!---their tender mouths won't let them!
The secret to successful thorn-eating is having thick, gooey, slimy saliva like a giraffe does! Once the acacia thorns get coated in gelatinous muck, then down the throat they slide with ease! (But don't worry---when you feed the giraffes at a zoo's giraffe feeding station, you won't get slimy!)
Are acacia leaves the ONLY thing that wild giraffes eat? No, not at all! There are about one hundred different species of plants that giraffes will consider eating, depending on what plants are available at the time.
At the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, giraffes are fed alfalfa hay, grain mixtures, fruits and vegetables. The giraffe crackers that zoo visitors buy are only a supplement to the giraffes' diet. So, don't worry---the giraffes won't starve if you don't feed them! But, it's simply lots of fun for YOU if you DO!
What are giraffe crackers made of? I'm not sure if all zoos use the same type of giraffe crackers or not...but all zoos love their giraffes and want to give them tasty---but very nutritious---things to eat. The National Zoo in Washington DC, for example, uses a "leaf eater cracker" that's made out of soybean meal, corn gluten meal, and sugar beet pulp, with a mixture of vitamins and minerals added for extra-healthy benefits. More than one type of animal eats these crackers, not just giraffes. The USA's National Zoo is famous for their Giant Pandas...and the giant pandas eat this type of cracker, too!
Giraffe Feeding Station: See a giraffe tongue up close!
One thing that you can't miss if you feed the giraffes is seeing a giraffe's tongue up close! If you think that giraffes have a tongue that's exactly like human tongues, then you'll be in for a BIG SURPRISE!
"Big Surprise #1" is that a giraffe's tongue is very long! Adult giraffes have tongues that reach 18 inches long...or even longer! In the wild, they use these long tongues to reach into trees and grab leaves. At the zoo, giraffes use their long tongues to snatch crackers from the hands of timid visitors who think they're standing too far away from the giraffes to be reached!
"Big Surprise #2 is that giraffe tongues aren't always pink! Giraffe tongues CAN be pink...but often they're dark blue or grey. Some giraffe experts think that the giraffe's dark tongue helps to keep the tongue from getting sunburned as it searches for food in the bright African sun.
The giraffe's tongue can be a bit rough. At the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, there's a Giraffe Tongue exhibit---complete with a hand puppet! You can either feel the fabric to get an idea of how the giraffe's tongue feels when it's dry...OR, you can stick your hand inside the "tongue puppet" and scare your friends when they walk by!
Big Surprise #3 is that a giraffe's tongue can actually GRAB THINGS! That means, you don't really have to "feed" the giraffes. If you'd rather, you may sit the giraffe cracker in the palm of your hand...and let a giraffe take it out of your hand by grabbing it with its tongue!
In the adjacent photo, you can see a giraffe twisting its tongue to grab a cracker that he thinks is a bit too slow in coming his way!
The technical name for this type of tongue is a "prehensile tongue." This is just a fancy term for a tongue that rolls, twists, and turns in such a way that it can be used to grasp objects...much like a human's hand or a monkey's tail! The dictionary says that there are two official ways to pronounce the word "prehensile." Either pree-HIN-sill (rhymes with "bill") or else pree-HIN-syle (rhymes with "smile.")
Giraffe Feeding Stations: How much do giraffes eat?
Before you try to guess how much a giraffe eats every day, you need to know how much giraffes weigh. Because, of course, the heavier an animal is, the more he or she will need to eat. Well, here's a surprise: although giraffes look sleek and graceful, they really weigh A LOT! An adult female giraffe will generally weigh over 2000 pounds (that's one TON!) or more. An adult male giraffe will often weigh 3000 pounds or more---that's the weight of a small car like the Volkswagon Beetle. Yikes! You do NOT want a giraffe to step on you!
OK, so how much do you think a giraffe needs to eat to keep up a huge weight like that? And how much time do you think a giraffe needs to spend in order to get that much food?
Giraffes may eat an average of about 75 pounds of food a day, though that amount can vary from about 40 pounds to 140 pounds depending on what's available and the size of the giraffe in question. Wow...does delivering all that food keep the giraffe-feeding employees at the zoo busy, or what?
Giraffes may spend up to 50% of their day just eating!
Giraffes are given plenty of nutritious food at the zoo. Nevertheless, they are very curious and love to nibble at everything they see. If there's a lawn that's part of the giraffe exhibit (like there is at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona) you will notice giraffes trying to eat the lawn. Or, as you can see in the picture to your left, a giraffe at the Reid Park Zoo is trying to munch on a decorative log that's part of the giraffe enclosure. (And, YES, the giraffe's feeding basket was full of alfalfa at the time!)
In the picture to your right, a giraffe at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo picks through grassy weeds at the edge of the exhibit, trying to find a juicy one. Giraffe-feeding goes on all day at this Colorado Springs Zoo...and at the time this giraffe was hunting weeds, there were plenty of yummy crackers being handed out by eager zoo guests. The old saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" certainly seems true for THIS particular giraffe!
Giraffe Feeding Station: Do giraffes drink water?
Yes, giraffes drink water. BUT, they don't always NEED to drink water. Even though a giraffe's body---just like a human body---MUST have water to survive, a giraffe can often extract enough water out of the food he eats to make a trip to the watering hole unnecessary. Normally, a giraffe might choose to take a drink only every 2-3 days...but in an emergency, a giraffe may be able to go several weeks without taking a drink of water.
On the other hand, when a giraffe drinks, a giraffe DRINKS! A giraffe might even slurp down as much as 10 gallons of water on a trip to the pond.
One reason that a giraffe doesn't like to drink very often is because it's a very difficult thing to do. Even though a giraffe's neck is long, a giraffe's legs are even longer! A giraffe must contort his body in order to bring his head down low enough to reach into a pond. Not only is the giraffe's position awkward...with his legs either bent like a pretzel or else flung out to the sides like he's trying to do "the splits"...but also, he's vulnerable to predators (like lions or crocodiles) while he's in this stance. It would be hard for him to straighten up quickly and run away in an emergency.
If you would like to feed giraffes while on your trip to the Southwestern USA, here are the addresses and phone numbers of the 3 zoos with Giraffe Feeding Stations which were mentioned on this page:
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, phone number (719) 633-9925. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's address is: 4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906. You may use the following link to view a Google map to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which isn't far from Colorado Springs' famous Broadmoor Hotel.
The Wildlife World Zoo's phone number is (623) 935-WILD. The Wildlife World Zoo's address is 16501 W. Northern Ave, Litchfield Park, AZ 85340. You may use the next link to view a Mapquest Map to the Wildlife World Zoo. Directions: visitors should take the Route 303/Cotton Lane exit off of the Interstate 10 Freeway, and head north to Northern Ave. Note that although you'll be exiting on Cotton Ln, the name of Loop 303 changes to the Estrella Parkway as you drive along...and you won't even realize it! Also, if you're planning a visit here, you'll certainly want to browse through the Wildlife World Zoo's official website.
The Reid Park Zoo's phone number is (520) 791-3204. The Reid Park Zoo's address is: 1100 Randolph Way, Tucson, AZ 85716. There are a number of ways to reach this location, which is right in the heart of Tucson's popular Reid Park, depending on your starting point. You may access the following Google map to the Reid Park Zoo to help you plot your route. For further information about this well-attended Tucson zoo, you may view the Reid Park Zoo's official website.