Get ready to get up close and personal with the world’s tallest mammal! The LA Zoo is offering a brand new interactive experience for kids (and grownups, too): giraffe feedings. Starting in March, as part of a yearlong 50th Anniversary ZOOLAbration, visitors can experience first-hand what it’s like to stand next to those friendly, four-legged giants and feed them their favorite snacks.

zoo6photo: Elizabeth Kate

What Has 4 Legs, A Black Tongue and Is 18 Feet Tall?
Giraffes are a crowd favorite at every zoo. Standing 16 to 18 feet tall, they’re elegant, graceful beasts and always fascinating to observe. Now you can get even closer.

The giraffe feedings occur at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily, weather permitting, and allow you and your suddenly extra small looking little ones to look deeply into the eyes of a Masai giraffe, possibly hear her snort, and watch in awe as her 14” long, black, prehensile tongue reaches out to grasp the offered branch. A “prehensile” tongue is one that can reach and grab like a hand, very necessary when trying to pull tender leaves from a thorny acacia tree.

zoo3photo: Elizabeth Kate

Safe and Supportive
A fence separates you and the giraffe and a zoo authority is always right there on hand to supervise, so safety is never an issue. Nevertheless, having the enormous head of a giraffe swing down to your level is thrilling and an experience you and your young animal lovers won’t want to miss.

Giraffe populations in Africa are declining dangerously because of poaching and habitat loss as cities spread out into the once-empty savannas. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) now classifies giraffes as “Vulnerable” which sadly makes them one step closed to “Endangered.” When you and your family support the zoo, you’re also supporting conservation efforts to protect threatened animals, including the beautiful giraffe. There’s another good reason to visit the LA Zoo!

zoo2photo: Elizabeth Kate

How Humans Are Like Giraffes
A funny fact about the giraffe is that they have the same number of bones in their necks as humans do—seven. The only difference is the bones in the neck of a giraffe are enormous, some of them up to 11 inches long.

During your visit, you will probably notice the baby giraffe frolicking in the main giraffe enclosure. This lively baby girl is the daughter of Hasina and was born on November 9, 2016. She is still without an official name although one will be bestowed upon her in the coming months. You may spy the zookeepers mulling over “What to Name Your Baby” books in their spare time. If you can come up with a good name for Hasina’s daughter, be sure to alert a zookeeper. Any and all suggestions are appreciated.  So if you put the kibosh on naming your new baby Elsa Elmo Tinkerbelle, as your 4 year old insisted, here’s the chance for them to play “Name That Baby.”

zoo5photo: Elizabeth Kate

How Humans Aren’t Like Giraffes
Speaking of babies, did you know a newborn baby giraffe is six feet tall and typically weighs 100-150 lbs? These bright babies can walk within an hour of their birth, much to the dismay of their exhausted mothers, who endure a gestation period of 14 months. Imagine giving birth and having to run after a toddler, only hours later. Feel grateful you’re not a giraffe.

zoo4photo: Elizabeth Kate

If you notice the giraffes chewing something from time to time, be assured it’s not bubble gum. Giraffes are “ruminants” with four chambered stomachs, and can be seen casually chewing their cud. The giraffes’ favorite foods are whistling-thorn acacia and mulberry leaves, which are grown on-site in the Botanical Gardens. Those hungry vegetarians will happily munch away for 16-20 hours a day and can consume 70-80 lbs of leaves. Giraffes live 15-20 years and the males can grow up to 18 feet tall and weigh as much as 3000 lbs. That’s a lot of giraffe to love. But love them we do!

zoo1photo: Elizabeth Kate

When, Where and Why
Giraffe Feedings take place at 11 a.m. & 2:30 p.m. daily and are $5 (cash only) per person with paid Zoo admission; Zoo admission is $20 for adults, $15 for kids 2-12 and free for kids under 2.  There’s plenty of free parking at the zoo, and you can bring or rent strollers or wheelchairs here.

The Los Angeles Zoo
5333 Zoo Dr.
Griffith Park
323-644-4200
Online: lazoo.org

What’s your favorite thing to do at the zoo?  Let us know in the comment section!

—Elizabeth Kate