Did You Eat Your Dirt Today?

Giraffe spitting dust

A giraffe spits dust after eating dirt. Photo by Marie-France Grenouillet.

Wildlife photographer Marie-France Grenouillet captured this spectacular photo of a giraffe spitting dust out after eating soil in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania.

The act of eating soil, clay and dirt, called geophagy, is extremely common in mammals, especially in herbivores. Giraffes eat soil in order to take in minerals such as salt, copper, iron and zinc.  The clay also acts as a medicine by binding fungal toxins, internal toxins, toxic chemicals, and bacteria.

View more fantastic wildlife photos at her website.

You can learn more about giraffes at our giraffe facts article.

Scientists Finally Discover What Sound the Giraffe Makes

GiraffeCow goes moo. Frog goes croak. Giraffe goes…. hmm?

Zookeepers have always assumed giraffes were fairly silent creatures, with the occasional snort thrown in. The assumption was that their long necks restricted their ability to make sounds, and also that being noisy would attract predators.

But researchers from the University of Vienna challenged this assumption. After recording and studying 938 hours of giraffe sounds over an eight year period, the scientists have discovered that in fact giraffes do make sounds. They make low-pitched humming sounds at night.

Listen here:

Learn more about giraffe sounds and the new research at Wired.com.

Discover more giraffe facts at our giraffe article.

VIDEO: Baby Giraffe’s Boisterous Debut

Three-week-old Kipenzi, a giraffe calf at the Dallas Zoo, made her grand entrance on Friday to the delight of zoo visitors.

Watch a video of the little giraffe bounding around in circles:

“Kipenzi” is a Swahili word meaning “loved one” – a fitting description for this adorable baby. Her birth on April 10 was viewed in real time via video feed by millions of people through a partnership with Animal Planet.

To learn more about Kipenzi, visit the Dallas Zoo website.

Learn more giraffe facts at our giraffe page.

Featured Animal: Giraffe

Meet our featured animal: the giraffe!


Here are five fun facts about giraffes:

  • At an average height of around 5 m (16-18 ft.), the giraffe is the tallest land animal in the world.
  • Many people first believed the giraffe was a cross between a leopard and a camel, which is reflected in its scientific name, Giraffa camelopardalis.
  • Giraffes have long tongues which help them pull leaves from trees.
  • Both male and female giraffes have skin-covered knobs, called ossicones, on the top of their heads. Male ossicones are bald at the top, while female ossicones have tufts of fur.
  • When giraffes walk, they move both legs on one side of their body and then both legs on the other side; this is unique to giraffes. However, they run in a similar style to other mammals, swinging their rear legs and front legs in unison.

Learn more at our giraffe facts page!

Memphis Zoo Announces Baby Giraffe

Baby giraffe

Baby giraffe, Tamu Massif, arrived on May 16 at the Memphis Zoo. Photo by Caitlin Miller. Courtesy of Memphis Zoo.

Excitement continues at the Memphis Zoo with the birth of a baby reticulated giraffe on May 16.  The male giraffe calf, named Tamu Massif (tam-MOO mah-SEEF), weighs 150 pounds.  He is the fifth calf for mother Marilyn.

“Tamu is doing incredibly well,” says Matt Thompson, Director of Animal Programs. “He’s happy and healthy. Marilyn is a great, experienced mother, so she’s taking this all in stride.”

The giraffe’s name means “sweet giant”. It is also the name of a dormant, underwater volcano in the Pacific Ocean.

Baby giraffe

Tamu explores his surroundings as other members of the herd look on. Photo by Caitlin Miller. Courtesy of Memphis Zoo.

To learn more about the baby giraffe, visit the Memphis Zoo’s website. You can learn more about giraffes at Animal Fact Guide’s giraffe facts page.

Baby Giraffes at Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens experienced a baby boom this spring!

Giraffe babies at Busch Gardens.

Three giraffe calves were born in March to mothers Bititi, Tequiza and Celina at Busch Gardens. Photo by Busch Gardens.

There were three reticulated giraffes born on March 12, 14, and 18 to mothers Bititi, Tequiza, and Celina.  At birth, the two female calves were 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed over 100 pounds.  The male calf was more than 6 feet tall and weighed nearly 150 pounds! The females will eventually grow to be about 16 feet tall, and the male will be 18 feet tall. (Giraffes are the tallest mammals on earth!)

Within an hour of being born, all the calves were standing up. And within two hours, they were all nursing!  For now, the babies will reside behind-the-scenes, but in the coming weeks they will be on view on Busch Gardens’ Serengeti Plain.

For more information, visit the Busch Gardens website.

To learn more about giraffes, visit our giraffe facts page.

Year in Review: Baby Animals of 2013

What a wonderful year it’s been for adorable baby animals! Here are a few highlights:

Most Eager Eyes: Pictured below is one of two female lion cubs who were born at Busch Gardens on March 20. The cubs have genetic lines from the Kalahari and Kruger regions of South Africa, where lions are recognized for their large size and impressive manes on the males.

Lion cubs at Busch Gardens

Photo by Busch Gardens.

Best Peek-a-Boo: Max, a little Coquerel’s sifaka (pronounced CAH-ker-rells she-FAHK — it’s a species of lemur), was born at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore on March 30. In the wild, Coquerel’s sifaka live solely on the island of Madagascar, which is off the southeastern coast of Africa.

Baby lemur

Baby sifaka at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Photo by Jeffrey F. Bill.

 Most Spiky: The Woodland Park Zoo welcomed a North American porcupette (baby porcupine) on April 18. Porcupettes are born with soft quills that harden a few hours after birth, providing quick protection against predators.

Baby porcupine at Woodland Park Zoo

The new porcupette at one day old at the Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk / Woodland Park Zoo.

Best Hugger: This baby bonobo was born on May 12 at the Memphis Zoo. In the wild, bonobos inhabit the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. Currently, the IUCN has categorized bonobos as endangered.

Bonobo and baby

Bonobo baby with mom Kiri. Photo credit: Laura Horn, Memphis Zoo.

Sleepiest Piggy-Backer: It’s a tie between this baby anteater and this baby spider monkey, both of whom were born in June at Busch Gardens!


Weighing less than 5 pounds, this baby anteater will eventually grow to be over 100 pounds. The little anteater will ride on his mother’s back for about a year.

Spider monkey

This baby spider monkey got comfy sleeping on his mother’s back.

Rare Birth: King is an Eastern black rhinoceros born at the Lincoln Park Zoo on August 26. In the wild, Eastern black rhinos are critically endangered due to poaching. It is estimated that there are only 5000 left in the wild in Africa.

King, a baby rhino.

After a few timid steps, King gained confidence in the outdoor exhibit, taking in all the new sights and scents. Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Lincoln Park Zoo.

Cutest Snout: Meet Gabana, a baby giant anteater born at the Nashville Zoo on November 16. In the wild, giant anteaters inhabit the tropical forests of Central and South America. They are considered vulnerable of extinction by the IUCN.

Baby giant anteater at Nashville Zoo. Photo by Heather Robertson / Nashville Zoo.

Baby giant anteater at Nashville Zoo. Photo by Heather Robertson / Nashville Zoo.

Tallest Baby: In the early morning hours of December 13, a female Masai giraffe was born at Nashville Zoo!  At birth, the calf was already 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 180 lbs.

Photo by Amiee Stubbs / Nashville Zoo.

Photo by Amiee Stubbs / Nashville Zoo.

Hope you enjoyed our roundup of cute animal babies of 2013. Happy New Year!

Giraffe Calf at Nashville Zoo

Photo by Amiee Stubbs / Nashville Zoo.

Photo by Amiee Stubbs / Nashville Zoo.

In the early morning hours of December 13, a female Masai giraffe was born at Nashville Zoo!  At birth, the calf was already 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 180 lbs.

Masai giraffes are one of nine different sub-species and are known for their oak-leaf shaped spot pattern. They are native to the savannas of Kenya and Tanzania in Africa.

Masai Giraffe Calf at Toronto Zoo


Toronto Zoo welcomed a baby Masai giraffe last month. The female calf was named Mstari (pronounced mi-starry), which means “stripes” in Swahili, after her late father who was called Stripes. The baby giraffe and her mother Twiga are doing very well.

“The Toronto Zoo is part of the Masai Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP) and the birth of this calf is very important to the North American captive population”, says Maria Franke, Toronto Zoo Curator of Mammals. This is the 17th Masai giraffe born at the Toronto Zoo.

Photo by Ken Ardill, Toronto Zoo.