A GIRAFFE CALLED GERALD
Volunteering at Moholoholo was a lot of fun for many reasons, one of them being the free roaming of a few ‘babies’, including a giraffe called Gerald.
Gerald was 6-8 months old and shared his enclosure with a baby sable called Petals, and Olive a baby white rhino whose night time enclosure was within his area.
All three were being raised together after having been rescued, and were the best of unlikely mates. During the day, all three were allowed to free roam the centre and volunteers/workers compound. They were often seen hanging around and happily grazing together.
But as babies are, they still needed regular proper feeds. In Gerald’s case, his feed was a special milk formula supplied to him using recycled 2 litre coke bottles complete with special rubberised teats.
He was still small as giraffes go, so he could still be fed from the ground level, unlike Melman, an older ‘baby’ giraffe who was so tall now, that she was fed off the back of a ute. Nothing like being vertically challenged trying to feed a giraffe!
Gerald was my first close quarter exposure to a giraffe not behind a fence in a zoo. One of our jobs was to regularly clean his enclosure of poop droppings and to cut low hanging branches that could hurt him from trees growing in his area. So I had every opportunity to personally observe the character and personalities of a giraffe, up close and personal.
I rapidly came to the conclusion that giraffes are on the stupid end of the spectrum. Whilst they are quite gorgeous and curious animals, they spook very easily. And when they spook, their legs can go in all directions. I worked out that their legs are attached to their bodies by a ball and socket joint with a very impressive range of rotation. So, to avoid being kicked out of the blue if a sudden noise set Gerald off, you had to watch the radius that he could kick out in, and make sure you could jump out of the way once spooked!
Gerald had an outwardly calm, confident manner but he startled quite easily. You could be stroking him having a wonderful moment of intimate contact, but if the handle of your bucket just fell over and clanged, he would jump and kick one of his legs out. Aargh! So you had to ever be on the alert when next to him.
But the funniest moment was watching him one day walking around in front of the rehab’s vet clinic next to some parked cars. A car engine started in a nearby garage and that was enough to set him off. Watching a giraffe run with their almost uncoordinated leg action looks quite weird and funny. And just when you think he’s calmed down, nope, he would kick out when you least expected it! And I managed to capture that little demonstration on my iphone – a moment in time with a spooked giraffe called Gerald. Enjoy!
[Photos and Videos by Irene Isaacson]