KTSM Goes Wild: Feeding giraffes is an experience that has returned to the El Paso Zoo

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — There are now more ways El Paso Zoo visitors can now interact with the animals, including feeding the giraffes.

KTSM 9 News got an opportunity to hang out with giraffes Juma and Gigi and anyone can feed them some lettuce for $3 (cash only). You get three leaves of lettuce and feed them one at a time. The feeding lasts about 30 minutes starting at 11 a.m. on days the zoo is open to visitors. Guests are encouraged to get in line early near the giraffe exhibit.

“So it’s basically a substitute for browse, so get as much browse as we can give them in a day. These guys can have as much browse. He’s about 17 feet tall so it takes a lot of food to get him tall and this lettuce is mostly water,” said Katelyn Vanaman, an El Paso Zoo keeper. “It’s like 97 percent water, so there’s not really a cut off unless we came out here and gave him a literal ton of lettuce. You can’t really overfeed him with the lettuce.”

Children can have different reactions to feeding the giraffes but most enjoy the experience of being so close to the animals.

“Most of them are really excited and they’re ready to go. Some are a little nervous just because he is big and his head is as big as a small child. So sometimes it’s a little nerve-racking,” said Vanaman. “Most of the time they’re excited and are ready to give him a nice big piece of lettuce.”

Vanaman said they go through about 24 to 48 heads of lettuce a day. She said the tongues they use to eat the lettuce are about 18 inches long.

“His tongue … is that dark purple color so it helps them in Africa to keep from getting some birds and stuff and it’s also pretty thick for like the Acacia bushes or trees and stuff, to not get their tongues all cut up from all the thorns,” she said.

For more information, visit ElPasoZoo.org.

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