It was a long couple of days for lovers of the Giraffa camelopardalis species. How would Eddie like his new transportation? Eddie, a 14-year-old zoo favorite, has been living in Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. But who wants to be stuck in the same old place forever? How about a visit to a zoo 150 miles up the road? To entice him for the adventure, Eddie the giraffe got his own RV—or so the press release made it appear.
“Travel trailer” for a giraffe?
Touting Eddie’s move to the NEW (Northeastern Wisconsin) Zoo & Adventure Park, zoo officials publicized how Eddie would have his own travel trailer. Somehow, the combination of terms “giraffe” and “travel trailer” caught the eye. You’ll have to excuse the media folks at the zoo. Eddie didn’t get his own “travel trailer.” Eddie got himself a new fifth-wheel. We weren’t able to get interior images of the RV, nor the specs. Just how much gear could Eddie bring with him, compared to the GVWR of his new fiver? We couldn’t find out. Maybe that’s why Eddie got so finicky about his travel plans.
How does a giraffe get finicky about traveling? When it came time for Eddie to make the big trip in his own RV, Eddie politely (as politeness goes for Giraffa camelopardalis) declined. Eddie’s fan club was ready to see him hoof it up the ramp and into the new rig last Tuesday. But when the big time came, Eddie balked. Couldn’t keepers have used a little, say, enticement?
“As AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums)-accredited zoos, we do not use negative reinforcement, or punishment, to force an animal to do something he’s not ready and willing to do,” wrote the zoo media folks. “That means that if Eddie doesn’t want to do what his caretakers are asking, he is not forced to do it.” And although invited several times on Tuesday, the big leaf-eater declined each time.
Finally, Eddie decides to travel
Finally, on Wednesday, Eddie (who must have pored over Google Maps) deigned the trip was suitable. He marched up the ramp, and off went his combination. Of course, he’d been “in training” for the big moment. His friends the zoo keepers in Madison spent several weeks acquainting Eddie with his own RV. Part of that “net cargo capacity” was no doubt taken up with some of his favorite snack foods: Romaine lettuce and sweet potatoes. No chocolate chip cookies for this boy!
At the end of the three-hour road trip, Eddie wasted little time coming down the ramp and checking out his new digs in Suamico, Wisconsin. A fence separates him from other giraffes already at his new zoo. Once they get acquainted, the gate will open and Eddie the newcomer will join old hands (or is it old hooves?) Zuri and Nigel. No word on whether or not those two want to take Eddie’s fiver for a road trip of their own.
BTW, if you’re ever in the area, Henry Vilas Zoo is a 28-acre public zoo that is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Owned by Dane County, the zoo charges no admission or parking fees. It receives over 750,000 visitors annually.