Brookfield Zoo animal spotlight: Giraffes

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We’ve got a monthly feature here called the “Brookfield Zoo animal spotlight.” Each month, we will feature one (or more) of Brookfield Zoo’s animals and give you some background information about the animal(s), its species, its family and its connection to the zoo!

Species: Giraffe

Q. Tell us a little bit about Potoka (the giraffe)?

A. Potoka—whose name means “bent” in Swahili—was born to Jasiri on June 21, 2013, in the Habitat Africa! The Savannah exhibit at Brookfield Zoo. Potoka has one other relative at the zoo: his older half-brother, Dave. While Dave is leaving soon for a new home, Potoka will remain at Brookfield Zoo. Once Dave departs, Potoka will live with his mother and our other females, Mithra, Frannie and Arnieta. Potoka is young and curious. He loves to play with the other giraffes and explore his home.

Q. Are there different types of giraffes?

A. Absolutely! According to some experts there are nine subspecies of giraffes in Africa. U.S. zoos have three: reticulated giraffes (which is what the giraffes at Brookfield Zoo are), Maasai giraffes, and Rothschild’s giraffes. All of the different subspecies are closely related and can be told apart by their spot pattern.

Q. What are the different types of giraffes and their spot patterns like?

A. Reticulated giraffes have orange-brown patches, with bright white lines in between each patch. Angolan giraffes are lightly colored and have blotchy, uneven spots that cover their whole leg. Kordofan giraffes have small, pale spots that do not cover their entire leg. Nubian giraffes have large, reddish-brown, four-sided spots that do not extend past their knee. South African giraffes have star-shaped blotches on a tan background. West African giraffes are very light in color, with blotches separated by thick, cream-colored lines. Rothschild’s giraffes have irregular, rectangular splotches on a cream background, and their lower legs are white and without patterns. Thornicroft giraffes have dark, ragged blotches that continue down their legs. Maasai giraffes are darker than the other subspecies and have jagged, leaf-shaped blotches on a cream background.

Q. What is World Giraffe Day?

A. This year, zoos in the Northern Hemisphere will be celebrating giraffes on June 21, the longest day of the year. Giraffe populations throughout Africa are substantially decreasing due to habitat loss from human economic growth, including housing and farming. Currently, there are fewer than 80,000 giraffes in the wild. We hope that the First Annual World Giraffe Day will bring awareness to giraffe conservation issues and will empower people to help stop dwindling giraffe populations.

Q. Anything else that you want to say about this animal?

A. Most people know about the threats elephants face, but no one really talks about giraffes. Believe it or not, there are more elephants than giraffes. Education, research and awareness are the keys to protecting these animals in their natural habitat.

To learn more about giraffe conservation at Brookfield Zoo and around the world, go to www.CZS.org or like Brookfield Zoo on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/BrookfieldZoo.

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