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Aiden the giraffe target training

In a behind-the-scenes barn area, Aiden’s keeper works on target training with him.

In the near future, we’ll be wishing two-year-old giraffe Aiden well as he heads west to join a new tower. Under a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) for his species, he will soon be heading to Kansas City Zoo to hopefully sire some young of his own in a few years. SSPs are important to making sure AZA-accredited zoos have healthy, genetically diverse populations of animal residents.

Our animal care staff is helping him prepare for his big move. We know what you’re thinking: How do you move a giraffe across the country?

Moving an animal is a huge undertaking and requires many months of careful planning. Fortunately, our Animal Registrar, Sebastian, has taken all the steps necessary to get this move going, including creating a contract, exchanging permits, contacting a shipping coordinator, securing an experienced animal transporter and setting up a shipping date.

Aiden will make his road trip in a large – think giraffe-sized – trailer. Our team has been working with him on getting comfortable with the shipping stall, the space he will be in as he is transported. This requires a lot of positive reinforcement (and treats) to cue him to get into the stall, spend an increasing amount of time in that area, and even eat some of his regular diet while inside it. All of this training will make his journey to his new home as comfortable as possible.

In addition, our Expedition Africa team has been working with Aiden on voluntary hoof trims so that he has a set behavior before he leaves. Because animals in human care sometimes do not walk the distances necessary to get food and water as they might in their natural range, their hooves must be maintained by us in order to avoid overgrowth, arthritis, fractures and more. By teaching our hoofstock to present their hooves for a trim voluntarily, we can alleviate any potential stress on the animals. Plus, lots of snacks are involved!

Closer to his big move, our veterinary team will do a pre-ship health check on Aiden to ensure we have up-to-date medical information on him to send to his future home. In addition, we will provide their staff with his current diet, behavioral training and favorite enrichment as well as all current data on Aiden so they know all the ins and outs of caring for our wonderful, not-so-baby boy before he makes his road trip. One of Aiden’s future keepers is coming to visit him before his move to learn all about him and watch his training. We are confident that he will be in excellent care!

Aiden was born on September 27, 2019, to now-20-year-old Milenna and now-24-year-old Rafiki. His siblings include Zoo residents Sprinkle (4) and Greg (6), although his dad has sired over a dozen offspring that live all over the country.

According to Animal Curator Chelsea Herman, Aiden is a very calm, brave and confident giraffe. “He is always willing to try new things or go where keepers ask him to, especially if there are crackers involved!” said Chelsea. “Aiden is super smart and learned target and hoof trimming behaviors very quickly.”

While we are sad to see him go, we know Aiden will be in excellent care at his future home and will have the amazing (and important) opportunity to boost the population of Masai giraffes. We will be posting further updates on Aiden’s transfer, so be sure to follow his journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!