9 January 2014

This month’s animal profile reaches some great heights, as we sit down with Werribee Open Range Zoo Keeper, Luke Hausler, to chat about Thembi, the often cheeky and sociable 5-year old male giraffe.

Thembi is the tallest, heaviest and oldest giraffe at Werribee and is also the herd’s leader, providing gentle guidance to the other members of the herd. Thembi is big even by giraffe standards, measuring over 5 metres tall and tipping the scales at a whooping 1197kgs.

Thembi arrived at Werribee Open Range Zoo with his half brother, Armani, in 2009 after being born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo near Dubbo, N.S.W. 

Like most giraffe, Thembi’s diet consists of lucerne hay, pellets and a variety of browse including acacia, ash and elm - all grown on site at Werribee Open Range Zoo. Giraffe are not fussy when it comes to food and eat almost anything, but if they're lucky keepers will treat them to fruits (such as apple and pear) and vegetables.

Thembi particularly loves vegetables that are orange in colour such as sweet potato and carrots.

Although currently listed as Not Threatened by the IUCN Red List, recent population estimate suggests there has been a decline in the total giraffe population in recent years which could result in the species being elevated to a higher category of threat. Habitat degradation and the increase in agriculture and uncontrolled timber harvesting are the biggest threats to wild giraffe populations.

Zoos Victoria's Beads for Wildlife program is working with local communities to help provide jobs and income to families, meaning they rely less on large numbers of livestock which compete with local wildlife such as giraffe.

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