Feb 112012

Giraffes aren’t known for their jumping ability, but one frisky young male, just a few months old, escaped over a four-and-a-half-foot high moat wall.

This particular young giraffe was quite active and spent a lot of time frolicking around the yard. One of his favorite games was to rear up against the moat wall and slam his chest into it. He did this many times without problems because the moat wall is five- to six-feet high for most of its length. One day, however, he hit the wall at one end where the ground is a little higher, lowering the effective barrier to about four and a half feet. When he hit the wall his momentum carried him over the top and he landed, unhurt, on the cement apron separating the giraffe yard from the public.

He apparently was uncomfortable in his new-found freedom for he only spent a few minutes exploring the apron before he turned and jumped back down into the yard. He landed on his feet, again uninjured, as if jumping down four an a half feet was something he did every day.

There are two footnotes to this story. The first is that none of the keepers saw it happen. It occurred around noon; some of the keepers were at lunch and the rest were busy inside. Several visitors did witness it, however, and one of them stopped to report it. The keepers, of course, found it difficult to believe. When he explained that he was an experienced keeper from another zoo, and showed them the muddy footprints on the cement apron, they were convinced. Additional proof came a few weeks later when he sent them a photograph he had snapped showing the giraffe in the process of jumping back into the yard.

The other thing that made this singular event even more incredible is that it occurred, not only during the week the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) national convention was in town, but on the very day that all of the visiting zoo directors and managers were touring the zoo. But for the fact that it occurred during the catered lunch, this might have been the most famous giraffe escape in zoo history.

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