George the Giraffe turns 12

Here at Flamingo Land we are celebrating the birthday of one our most iconic and well known animals at the Zoo. George the Giraffe turns 12 years old on the 20th of October! He is our breeding bull male Giraffe and has fathered 9 calves in his time here so he has been very successful indeed. He is a Rothschild Giraffe which an endangered species with only around 1500 in their native country of Uganda.

If anyone would like hand feed our huge male Giraffe then encounters can be booked online in advance or on the day from the gift shops and holiday village reception. They cost £25 per person and are limited to only four spaces and are extremely popular. For anyone that has met George will know he is very greedy and as well as very confident. In the wild Giraffes can live up to 25 years however in captivity they can live longer due to a constant supply of food and veterinary care.

Giraffes are the tallest animals on the planet and have evolved their unique physiology to take advantage of feeding on the fresh leaves, flowers and bark at the very tops of trees. Despite having incredibly long necks, they still only have seven cervical vertebrae or neck bones, exactly the same number as us. A giraffe tongue can reach around 45cm (18inch) long, which is prehensile allowing them to reach in and grasp leaves between the long thorns of the acacia trees on which they regularly feed. These are bluish black in colour and covered in thick saliva to prevent sun burn and drying out. They have excellent eyesight, and along with their unique vantage point, they are able to spot danger from a huge distance. Lions are the only real predator to threaten an adult giraffe and even then, they rarely tackle them as one kick could shatter a lion’s skull.

However, Giraffe numbers are falling and they have seen a 40% reduction in numbers over the past 30 years. This is thought to be down to habitat loss, drought brought on by global warming and hunting for their meat, skins and tail hairs that are used to make fly swishes and jewellery. This is why George plays a vital role in preserving such a wonderful species and his success is there for all to see here at Flamingo Land with several of his young calves living amongst him at the zoo.