The Lehigh Valley Zoo welcomes Joshua, its newest giraffe – The Morning Call

Joshua, a six-year-old Maasai giraffe, has arrived at Lehigh Valley Zoo, officials announced Friday.

Joshua, of the Houston Zoo, will join his six-year-old giraffe, Tatu, in the Maasai giraffe habitat at LV Zoo in north Whitehall Township.

Zoo officials said Joshua is 16-1/2 feet tall, 2,000 pounds and is still growing.

“The Zoo is delighted to introduce our newest family member to the Lehigh Valley community,” said President and CEO Amanda Shore. “Visiting the zoo is the community’s best way to support our animals and staff, and we can’t wait to reopen our feeding stand so our guests can come close to feeding both Tatu and Joshua.”

The zoo has created an introductory plan to help Joshua and Tatu establish a bond. After he arrives, officials said, Joshua will have access to the giraffe pen so he can learn to lay the ground and settle into his new surroundings. Tatu will be able to investigate him through ‘Fun Points’, which are designed to allow married couples to greet each other by choice.

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Once both giraffes are comfortable, they will be able to reach each other in different parts of the gallery. This entire process will be monitored by LV Zoo’s senior rangers, curators and veterinarians.

Maasai giraffes have been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, mainly due to poaching and changes in land use. There are an estimated 35,000 Masai giraffes remaining, but their population has declined by 50 percent over the past three decades, according to the press release. The number of Maasai giraffes in human care in the United States is small, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Giraffe Species Survival Plan manages populations to ensure they are healthy and genetically diverse so that the population thrives.

Giraffes are social animals, and can live in loose, unstable herds. These herds can range from 10 to 20 individuals, although much larger herds are noted. Individuals can join and leave the herd at will and there is no set structure for the herd. Herds can consist of all females, all males, or mixed races of all ages. It is not uncommon for young males to form celibate herds, and solitary individuals have been observed in the wild.

Adult male giraffes will establish their dominance over the herd by sparring with each other. The sparring involves two people rubbing their necks and heads and intertwining them. They will lean on each other to assess their opponent’s strength. Sparring may also include “tying” the two giraffes together. The neck is shown where the giraffe stands side by side and swings its heads at the other giraffe. The most powerful giraffe in this interaction will be established as the dominant male in the herd.

The Maasai giraffe habitat at the LV Zoo was built in 2016 and guests can feed the giraffes through the Kiannala Feeding Deck. Officials said Joshua used to eat lettuce from guests as he did regularly at his previous home.

LV Zoo expects to announce the opening of the giraffe feeding platform in the near future.

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