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Giraffes (Giraffa spp.) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

History of Managed Care


  • 14th Century BC: Art in King Tutankhamen's tomb shows haltered giraffes.
  • 46 BC: A giraffe - a gift from Cleopatra - was displayed by Caesar in games held that year (Mitchell 2009).
  • 525 AD: A giraffe was one of an Ethiopian king's pets, according to a written report.
  • 1414 AD: A giraffe given as a gift to the emperor of China had to walk 3,000 miles to reach its destination.
  • Early 1800s: First giraffes arrived in Europe as gifts to various leaders.
    • First imports to Europe: France 1826; England 1927 (Mitchell 2009)
  • 19 June 1839: First giraffe in England or Europe to be born in managed care; only lived 9 days (Mitchell 2009)
  • Currently, a majority of individuals outside of the wild are in zoos in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Husbandry and SDZWA Research

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

  • First pair of giraffes, "Lofty" and "Patches," arrive at the Zoo in 1938 (see photo, right).
  • Three giraffe subspecies are housed at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park (as of July 2016; Amanda Lussier, personal communication):
    • San Diego Zoo: Masai (G. c. tippelskirchi),
    • San Diego Zoo Safari Park: Masai (G. c. tippelskirchi), reticulated (G. c. reticulata), and Rothschild's/Uganda (G. c. rothschildi)
  • Diet (Amanda Lussier, personal communication)
    • Acacia (Acacia saligna and Acacia longifolia)
      • Grown onsite at the Zoo's/Safari Park's forage farms
    • Alfalfa hay
    • Nutritional pellets for herbivores
    • Fresh produce
      • Offered as treats, for enrichment, and to administer medication
      • Favorite produce: apples, carrots, lettuce, and bananas
        • Older female giraffes receive daily vitamins and supplements in apples
  • Enrichment (Amanda Lussier, personal communication)
    • Special exhibit design elements, such as substrate
    • Interactions with other giraffes and other species in their exhibit
    • Varying the types of food/acacia and placement of food
    • Creating a variety of interactions with keepers
  • Breeding program (Amanda Lussier, personal communication)
    • Very successful
    • Keepers monitor giraffe reproductive behavior
    • About 160 giraffes born at the Safari Park (as of July 2016)
      • Births occur about every 18-22 months
      • About 6 ft (1.8 m) tall and 150 lbs (68 kg) at birth
    • Successful bottle-raising of some calves

SDZWA Research

  • Current research (as of May 2016)
    • Tissue samples from Frozen Zoo® used to sequence reticulated giraffe genome
      • Data used to more sustainably manage wild populations
    • Behavioral ecologists developing technologies to detect low-frequency sounds (possible infrasound) of giraffes at the Safari Park
    • Ongoing community-based conservation projects in Africa
  • Past research
    • Scientists studied the relationship between female giraffe reproductive hormones (measured from fecal samples) and behavior at the Safari Park and Zoo.
  • SDZWA stories about giraffes


An Incredible Journey

Giraffes Lofty and Patches in truck bound for San Diego Zoo

In 1938, the San Diego Zoo's first two giraffes were driven from New York to San Diego in a specially fitted truck.

After crossing the Atlantic Ocean through a terrible hurricane, "Lofty" and "Patches" were driven across the United States to avoid the stress of transport by train.

This had never been attempted before, and the event made newspaper headlines across the country.

Image Credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Long Lashes of a "Longneck"

close up of Giraffe eye

Close-up of a giraffe's eye at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Page Citations

Bercovitch et al. (2003)
Lackey and LaRue (1997)
Mitchell (2009)
Ritter (1998)

SDZWA Library Links