Kivuli, Mpenzi’s mother; Mpenzi; and Zara stand close together at the Detroit Zoo.

Kivuli, Mpenzi’s mother; Mpenzi; and Zara stand close together at the Detroit Zoo.

Photos provided by the Detroit Zoo


Detroit Zoo welcomes 2-year-old female giraffe

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published November 12, 2020

 Zara, the new female giraffe at the Detroit Zoo, will turn 3 in January and is approximately 1,100 pounds and 11 feet tall.

Zara, the new female giraffe at the Detroit Zoo, will turn 3 in January and is approximately 1,100 pounds and 11 feet tall.

 Zara, the new female giraffe at the Detroit Zoo, is reportedly enjoying exploring her new habitat and hanging out with her “best buddy” Mpenzi, a 6-year-old male giraffe born at the zoo.

Zara, the new female giraffe at the Detroit Zoo, is reportedly enjoying exploring her new habitat and hanging out with her “best buddy” Mpenzi, a 6-year-old male giraffe born at the zoo.

 Zara, the new female giraffe at the Detroit Zoo, has two fur-covered horns, or ossicones, on the top of her head.

Zara, the new female giraffe at the Detroit Zoo, has two fur-covered horns, or ossicones, on the top of her head.

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ROYAL OAK — The Detroit Zoo’s tower, as a group of giraffes is called, has expanded to a quartet with the addition of newest member Zara, a 2-year-old female from the Peoria, Illinois, zoo.

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan recommended the move with the hope that Zara will successfully breed, which can help ensure the sustainability of healthy, genetically diverse and demographically varied captive animal populations.

The zoo’s resident giraffes include Mpenzi, 6, and his parents, Kivuli and Jabari. The recommendation is for Zara to breed with Jabari, 12, when she matures. In Swahili, one of the languages of East Africa where giraffes are found, Mpenzi means “love,” Kivuli means “shadow” and Jabari means “brave one.”

“We’re happy to welcome Zara to the herd,” Detroit Zoological Society Chief Life Sciences Officer Scott Carter said in a prepared statement. “She has a very calm demeanor and seems eager to learn new things.”

DZS Curator of Mammals Elizabeth Arbaugh said the transition has gone smoothly.

“She is doing great. We work with a gentleman who does this for a living. He has a specially designed truck to travel safely with a giraffe and does this for many other zoos as well,” Arbaugh said. “When we opened the door, she walked right off the trailer and into her new home without any concerns whatsoever.”

As is customary with new arrivals, Zara spent several weeks in quarantine in an area of the zoo’s African Grasslands habitat, although she could still see and smell the other giraffes.

“Recently, we put her with the younger male. They became good friends very, very quickly, rubbing heads and running out in the yard. It’s been a very positive interaction. She’s also been introduced to the older female as well,” Arbaugh said. “She’s very curious and has enjoyed being outside and spending time with the other giraffes.”

Zara, who will turn 3 in January, is approximately 1,100 pounds and 11 feet tall. She weighed 120 pounds at birth. According to the zoo, giraffes can grow to be up to 2,600 pounds, up to 18 feet tall and 20-25 years old.

Arbaugh said the giraffes at the Detroit Zoo love willow leaves and branches, mulberry, and grapevine, but also eat hay, acacia tree leaves and produce.

In the upcoming winter months, the giraffes may reside in their recently expanded indoor habitat, which features a natural surface floor, skylight windows and a fan.

Arbaugh said the giraffes have free rein of the habitat to be together or separate inside or out, but when temperatures drop, zoo staff keeps them indoors and provides extra enrichment opportunities.

“They like to be outside, even if it’s 50 or so,” she said. “We just like to make sure they’re inside when the ground gets slippery.”

Carter said there are serious conservation concerns around wild giraffe populations due to poaching, loss of habitat, and the effects of war and civil unrest across Africa.

“We believe the giraffes at the Detroit Zoo are strong ambassadors for their cousins in the wild,” he said in a statement.

According to the zoo, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature declared giraffes officially in danger of extinction in 2016. In recent decades, giraffe numbers have decreased in the wild by more than 40%, resulting in the species moving to the “vulnerable” category on the IUCN Red List.

The Detroit Zoo is located at 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, west of Woodward Avenue. To watch the livestream of the giraffes at the zoo, visit detroitzoo.org. The livestream is active from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

For more information, visit detroitzoo.org or call (248) 541-5717.

Fun facts:

• Due to their long necks and legs, giraffes are the tallest land mammals in the world.

• The giraffe has the same number of vertebrae in its neck as a human (there are only seven bones in its neck).

• A giraffe’s tongue can be up to 22 inches long, which makes eating leaves a breeze.

• The giraffe is capable of making sounds that are too low for humans to hear.

• A giraffe eats 16 to 20 hours a day, consuming up to 75 pounds of fresh browse.

• Giraffes get to spend more quality time together than most mammals, considering they rarely sleep more than 20 minutes each day.

• A giraffe’s heart can weigh up to 25 pounds (an adult human heart weighs about 10 ounces).

— Information provided by the Detroit Zoo

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