Philadelphia Zoo’s Meet the Giraffes Exhibit Lets Visitors Feed the Animals


Sunday was a great day for the Shore, but Somers Point resident Erica Lapid drove back for fun.

She came to Philadelphia with one goal in mind: to feed the giraffes at Philadelphia ZooGiraffe Encounter’s most recent exhibit.

“She is so cute!” Lapid cooed as Stella, the zoo’s giraffe matriarch, lowered her long neck to nibble on a stretched branch of acacia leaves. “Good work!”

For Lapid, it was definitely worth the trip.

“They’re so nice,” she said. “They are so docile and calm.”

These times, she acknowledged, have been anything but mild or calm.

“I am a psychotherapist. Our job has been particularly stressful, trying to support our people,” said Lapid, 35. “There is an innocence and playfulness in animals. It gives you respite from the problems of the world.

From the looks of things on Sunday, an extra $6 ($5 for members) was a small price to pay for a bit of giraffe feeding therapy, and the zoo’s resident trio – Stella, Abigail and Bea – seemed happy enough to oblige. A steady stream of zoo visitors lined up for the chance to interact with the gentle giants.

“Our new Giraffe Encounter is an amazing way for guests to connect with our greatest residents,” said Dani Hogan, director of mission integration at the zoo. Hogan said the exhibit has also helped the zoo “improve the lives of our giraffes.”

The new exhibit allows the giraffes more interaction with the public and gives them more space, Hogan said.

In the experience-focused exhibit, guests are given a browsing branch — the name of the leafy treat people can offer giraffes.

Although the exhibit officially opened on Thursday, Hogan said zoo staff had accustomed the giraffes to feeding on various people for weeks. Being such large animals that eat lots of leaves and grasses – 65 to 75 pounds a day – the giraffes, which seem to take turns feeding and go at their own pace, have yet to show signs of satiety. But Hogan said zoo staff keep data.

“We’re very scientific about all of this, and we’re looking for what we call the saturation point,” she said.

Giraffe Encounter can also give people a better appreciation for these creatures, which are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Zoo staff say less than 100,000 giraffes survive in the wild, with their populations declining by more than 40% in the past three decades due to poaching and habitat destruction.

Zoo visitors seemed delighted to get to know the three local giraffes better.

“It was really cool,” said Ellie Roller, 6, from Bensalem, who fed Bea, the youngest, with her twin brother Lukas. “The giraffe came straight at me!”

Rachel and Bill Heinlein from South Philadelphia brought their two children, Gabriel, 5, and Santina, 8 months.

“It was good because it’s interactive,” said 29-year-old Rachel Heinlein. The family had just become members of the zoo, she added, so they will have plenty of chances to repeat the experience.

Many visitors have said that the encounter with the giraffes, given recent events, is timely.

“It cuts the outside world off a bit,” said Lauren Crammer, 34, of West Philadelphia, visiting the zoo with family members.

“It’s nice to take your mind off things a bit,” said Ashley Abusaad, 31, of Warminster, visiting the zoo with her husband, Mohammed, 36, and their 23-month-old daughter, Layali.

Abusaad, a special education teacher with the Philadelphia school district, said she hopes to bring her students to the giraffe exhibit when classes resume.

Ama Armoo, 29, flashed a delighted smile as Stella nibbled on the acacia branch Armoo ​​gave her, and her boyfriend Allan Edzii, 29, took pictures. It was the last day of their first visit to Philadelphia for the Virginia couple, and feeding the giraffes was a great way to top it off.

“At home, you’re around everything,” she said. “When you go to a place like this, it takes you outside of everything that’s going on with a clear head.”


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