Greenville Zoo director Jeff Bullock announced today that the Masai Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP) Steering Committee has recommended that Tatu, the zoo’s youngest giraffe, be transferred to the Lehigh Valley Zoo in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania. While the transfer date has not been decided, it is expected to take place soon in order to make the move before winter arrives. To prepare for the transfer, the Greenville Zoo’s veterinary staff is conducting the required pre-transfer tests and the animal staff has begun to develop a loading plan for when the time comes.
Thanks to EarthCam, viewers from across the U.S. and around the world were able to watch as Tatu was born on February 2, 2016. He is the offspring of Autumn, the zoo’s 11-year-old female, and Walter, who was transferred to New Jersey’s Turtle Back Zoo in April 2016 so that the Greenville Zoo could receive a higher-ranking male to be paired with Autumn. The new male, eight-year-old Miles, arrived from the Houston Zoo in September 2016.
According to Bullock, it is typically recommended that giraffe calves be moved to another facility before their first birthday, so Tatu’s keepers have been working with him for some time to get him accustom to being separated from Autumn. In addition to being safer to transport younger giraffes, it is also beneficial to relocate them before they become sexually mature to prevent inbreeding, and in the case of males, to prevent aggression toward a younger animal that is seen as a breeding threat.
In the wild, once males are independent of their mothers, usually around 12-14 months, they leave and join loosely formed bachelor herds. It is common practice in zoos to mimic the social structures of giraffes in the wild by creating their own bachelor groups. In the absence of females, these zoo bachelor herds develop the same behaviors seen in wild bachelor herds in Africa. Further, because there is no competition for access to females, this bachelor herd grouping ensures companionship and stability for the animals. While at the Lehigh Valley Zoo, Tatu will be housed with a male giraffe named Murphy until he reaches an age when he can be paired with a suitable mate.
“While it’s always sad to see a member of our zoo family leave, supporting and promoting conservation efforts is a critical part of our mission, and we must always focus on the needs of the overall population. To that end, with Miles and Autumn being such a highly recommended pair, we’re hopeful that we’ll soon be welcoming a new calf to the zoo family.”
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Greenville Zoo Director