Zoo's new giraffe Desi is 10 feet tall and growing

December 12, 2012 - 4:29pm

Zoo welcomes Desi, a young giraffe from St. Louis, to its Africa Savanna habitat

He may be 7 feet shorter than his roommates, but it's no stretch to say Desi — the newest resident of the Oregon Zoo's Africa Savanna habitat — is now the tallest 2-year-old in town.

The 10-foot-tall reticulated giraffe arrived from the St. Louis Zoo last month and has been warmly welcomed by Oregon Zoo keepers and staff, who think the young fellow will be a good companion for the zoo's two other giraffes, both 17-footers.

Desi joins Bakari, a 5-year-old male giraffe who has been at the zoo since 2009, and Riley, an 8-year-old who is staying here temporarily while his home at Utah's Hogle Zoo undergoes renovation. Visitors can now see all three in the zoo's Africa Savanna habitat.

"Desi is getting along great with the other two giraffes, and seems like he's fitting in really well," said zoo curator Jennifer Davis. "He looks so small standing next to Riley and Bakari that it's hard to believe he's 10 feet tall."

Desi made the big move to Portland in an extra-tall trailer equipped with a video camera so keepers could make sure he was safe inside.

Once here, he spent his first month adjusting to his new home. Keepers made special arrangements to ease the transition, giving him access to the indoor giraffe space and a walled-off section of the yard. Gradually, they have been introducing Desi to his new companions — Bakari and Riley, as well as smaller animals, such as ground hornbills, that share space with giraffes in the outdoor Africa Savanna habitat.

Giraffes, the tallest mammals on earth, can grow up to 18 feet tall. Additional impressive stats include tongues up to 21 inches long, running speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, and the ability to consume up to 75 pounds of leaves and brush each day.

Reticulated giraffes are threatened in the wild due to habitat loss and hunting.