Everyday, close to 20 kilos of acacia leaf branches and twigs make their way into the enclosure for the three-year-old female giraffe, which is now the only surviving of the four that were shipped into the park in October 2019 from Africa.
In its enclosure at the Sardar Patel Zoological Park, near the Statue of Unity at Kevadia in Narmada, the lone giraffe browses through a branch of acacia leaves, located at a height. It is a common sight to see giraffes using their tongues to navigate through acacia leaves due to its fondness for the majestic tree known as acacia auricuriformis. The only difference is that the enclosure inside the Kevadia safari park does not have the actual Acacia tree. Instead, the zoo management has been fetching the daily quantity of acacia leaves from trees from the fodder farm run by the forest department, outside the park and fastening it to another tree inside the enclosure for the giraffe to get a sense of its “natural habitat”.
Everyday, close to 20 kilos of acacia leaf branches and twigs make their way into the enclosure for the three-year-old female giraffe, which is now the only surviving of the four that were shipped into the park in October 2019 from Africa. Officials at the zoo told The Indian Express that the attempts to grow acacia trees inside the enclosure have failed so far thus giving rise to the need of bringing in the fresh leaves everyday.
An officer of the Sardar Patel Zoological Park said, “We had planted a few acacia trees in the Safari park when it was being developed but it did not survive because the animals grazed it. Thereafter the occupants of the enclosure arrived and the second attempt went unsuccessful as they would graze on the sapling. Acacia takes about three years to grow to a desirable height for the giraffe. So, we have planted about 70 trees from the forest department outside the safari and we fetch fresh branches to suffice for one day for the giraffe.”
The officer added that the branches of acacia as well as the twigs are tied on the branch of another commonly found tree inside the enclosure in order to allow the giraffe to feed in standing position with its head raised to the meal. The meals also include green fodder and maize with natural grass at times, but acacia is a must have.
The officer added that giraffes are always found near acacia trees as the ear turned leaves make their favourite meal. “Giraffes have a fondness for Acacia leaves because they are extremely sweet and the trees grow very tall. In their natural habitat, they chew on acacia leaves. The tree and the giraffes share a unique relationship in the wild. Since giraffes keep eating up the leaves, the tree develops a mechanism of its own to grow thorns to deter the giraffe but the species has adapted to this and has a better skill to manoeuver through the thorns and eat the leaves. They use their long tongue to eat the leaves. So, the trees release tannin to turn off the giraffe and it moves on when it has finished its meal,” he says.
Acacia auriculiformis, commonly known as auri or earleaf acacia is a fast-growing, crooked, gnarly tree in the family Fabaceae. The management now plans to plant the saplings in the enclosure using shield. “We are hoping we will be able to add some green fencing around it to prevent the giraffe from completely devouring on it,” the officer said.
One of the four imported giraffes — two pairs– had died in November 2019 shortly after its arrival from Africa while the second giraffe died in March last year — both due to peracute mortality syndrome, which affects giraffes during a season change, official statement from the Safari park had said. The third giraffe also died shortly after last year.
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