It’s just like a remarkable scene out of the classic movie, The Lion King!
Excitement is rippling through Melbourne’s western suburbs as Werribee Open Range Zoo proudly unveils its latest inhabitants – three young giants making their debut on the Savannah.
David and Wayo (pronounced Way-ow), both one-year-old males, and two-year-old Jesse have recently touched down from the Queensland-based Australia Zoo and New South Wales’ Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
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Having successfully completed their quarantine rituals, the trio is now acquainting themselves with a bachelor herd of four adult Giraffes, alongside other Savannah denizens like Southern white rhinos, ostriches, plains zebras, and antelopes.
Dominic Moss, the Savannah Life Science Manager at Werribee Open Range Zoo, points out that the trio’s smaller stature distinguishes them from their towering adult counterparts. “David, Wayo and Jesse are still growing and measure just three to four metres in height and weigh between 550 and 630 kilograms,” Mr Moss said, adding that this may seem substantial, but it’s a far cry from the fully-grown, five-and-a-half metre, 1,500-kilogram adult Giraffes.
These newcomers aren’t just here for a stroll on the Savannah; they play a crucial role in Werribee Open Range Zoo’s commitment to the Australasian zoo breeding and conservation program for Giraffes, a species classified as vulnerable.
The move to Werribee represents a rite of passage, as Giraffes typically leave their natal groups at this age to join a bachelor herd, mirroring their wild counterparts.
According to Mr Moss, the youthful trio will acquire essential life skills from their new Giraffe companions. This includes navigating new feeding, drinking, and resting spots, as well as developing relationships with the diverse species that populate the Savannah.
On the topic of personalities, Mr Moss shares intriguing insights. “David is very gentle and likes engaging with his keepers. He’s more confident when around other Giraffes but he can often be seen laying down and enjoying some quiet time on his own. Wayo is calm and contemplative and likes to stand back and assess situations. He also loves carrots and solving enrichment puzzles. Jesse is confident and inquisitive and is very food motivated, which means he loves participating in training sessions. He is a natural leader and generally very relaxed.”
The name ‘Wayo,’ meaning footprint in Swahili, was bestowed upon the Giraffe due to his wobbly legs, requiring a gentle nudge from his mother’s hooves for a stable stand after birth. Both David and Jesse received their names at Australia Zoo in gratitude to generous donors supporting the international charity Wildlife Warriors.
While Giraffes hail from Africa, their wild populations are dwindling, with fewer than 70,000 remaining due to habitat destruction and illegal poaching.
Werribee Open Range Zoo invites visitors to witness these charismatic newcomers on a savannah bus tour, running throughout the day and included with entry, providing an up-close encounter with these majestic creatures.
Find out more about Werribee Open Range Zoo here.