Lehigh Valley Zoo
May 13, 2022
Joshua Joins Tatu at the LV Zoo from Houston Zoo
(Schnecksville, PA) – Lehigh Valley Zoo is excited to officially announce the arrival of a new Masai giraffe. Joshua, a six-year-old male giraffe from Houston Zoo, will join six-year-old male giraffe, Tatu, in the Masai giraffe habitat at LV Zoo.
Joshua is currently 16-1/2-feet tall and is still growing. He weighs more than 2,000 pounds. Born July 23, 2015, at Virginia Zoo, Joshua was the fifth calf born to mother, Imara, and father, Billy. Per the recommendation of the Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Joshua joined the Houston Zoo in hopes for him to sire calves. While there, he successfully sired a son, Bobbie, with mother, Kamili, in September of 2019 – making them both first-time parents. Joshua has been remarkably trained by his team at Houston Zoo for behaviors such as blood draws. The LV Zoo team is thrilled to continue to work with him on his voluntary medical behaviors.
The experts at LV Zoo have created an introduction plan to help Joshua and Tatu establish a bond. In the initial period after his arrival, Joshua will have access to the giraffe barn so he can learn the lay of the land and settle into his new surroundings. Tatu will be able to investigate him through “howdy points,” which are designed to allow the pair to greet each other by choice. The animal care team at LV Zoo is well educated in animal behavior and once both giraffes are comfortable, staff will continue to give them more access to each other in different parts of the exhibit. This entire process will be carefully monitored by LV Zoo’s senior keepers, curators and veterinarians.
By participating in the SSP, accredited zoos are provided the opportunity to educate guests about Masai giraffe conservation and its importance to the ecosystem. Masai giraffes are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), primarily due to poaching and changes in land use. There is an estimated 35,000 Masai giraffes remaining, but their population has fallen by 50 percent over the last three decades. The number of Masai giraffes under human care in the U.S. is small, and the SSP manages the population to ensure that it is healthy and genetically diverse so that the population thrives.
Giraffes are social animals, and can live in loose, unstable herds. These herds can vary from 10-20 individuals, although much larger herds have been observed. Individuals may join and leave the herd at will and there is no specific structure to the herd. Herds can be made up of all females, all males, or mixed genders of all ages. It is not uncommon for young males to form bachelor herds, and isolated individuals have been observed in the wild.
Adult male giraffes will establish dominance in the herd by sparring with one another. Sparring involves two individuals rubbing and intertwining their necks and heads. They will lean against each other to evaluate their opponent’s strength. Sparring may also include the two giraffes “necking” one another. Necking appears as the giraffe standing alongside one another and swinging their heads at the other giraffe. The strongest giraffe in this interaction will be established as the dominant male in the herd.
The Masai giraffe habitat at LV Zoo was built in 2016 and features opportunities for zoo guests to get up-close and personal with the animals through the Kiannala Feeding Deck. Joshua is accustomed to eating lettuce from guests as he did regularly at his prior home.
“The Zoo is excited to introduce the newest member of our family to the Lehigh Valley community,” said President & CEO Amanda Shurr. “Visiting the Zoo is the best way for the community to support our animals and staff, and we cannot wait to reopen our feeding deck so that our guests can get up-close to feed both Tatu and Joshua.”
LV Zoo expects to announce the opening of giraffe feeding deck in the near future.
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As a member-supported non-profit organization, Lehigh Valley Zoological Society was founded in 2004, but it has been treasured community landmark for centuries. Located in the Lehigh Valley’s Trexler Game Preserve, we have educated and entertained more than five million people. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Lehigh Valley Zoo hosts year-round, family-friendly events and activities, educational programs, and camps. Through a mission to create a safe, engaging and enlightening wildlife experience for guests of all ages, the Zoo demonstrates leadership in the cultural, scientific and conservation communities. To learn more about Lehigh Valley Zoo, we invite you to visit our website, www.lvzoo.org, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.