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A keeper holds a cake made of rye crackers to Rafiki the giraffe

Celebrating with some of Rafiki’s favorite foods!

Please join us in wishing one of our best-known animal residents a happy birthday! Rafiki, the father of many in our giraffe tower, turned 24 years old on July 26. He celebrated this latest birthday with a cake made of rye crackers and decorated with banana slices and sweet potatoes!   

Rafiki the giraffe eats a piece of lettuce

Don’t forget to eat your greens!

Rafiki was the first giraffe to arrive at our Zoo in 2003 just before we opened Expedition Africa. He’s since gathered quite the following, and it’s easy to understand why once you get a look at his 17-foot self! 

In recent years, Rafiki’s been spending more time in the Africa Barn, the holding space for some of our larger Expedition Africa animal residents, and its outdoor space. While he gets the option to visit the giraffe feeding platform, Rafiki’s arthritis – and these hot summer days – often lead him to choose to stay in this behind-the-scenes space. 

Animal care staff give Rafiki regular care for his arthritis. He receives laser therapy, acupuncture treatments and chiropractic treatments, and keepers noticed improvements especially since recently starting acupuncture and chiropractic care. As one of our geriatric animal residents, Rafiki receives regular quality of life assessments to ensure he’s given all he needs to live a comfortable life with us.  

Rafiki gets quite a bit of attention from his keepers when he’s in the Africa Barn! 

“Rafiki is a delight to work with,” said Africa Barn supervisor Nikki Perry. “He is very personable with keepers and often chooses to interact with us.” 

Rafiki the giraffe nibbles on some lettuce

His animal care staff gives him extra enrichment and chances to forage when he remains behind-the-scenes with them.  

Of course, Rafiki is probably also hoping for his favorite treat as well: rye crackers! This snack is only offered to Rafiki during his training sessions. Rafiki participates in a variety of training. He works on simple behaviors like targeting (interacting with a certain object from keepers) and getting on a weigh scale as well as more complex skills like participating in voluntary hoof trims and blood draws.  

When not with his keepers, Rafiki appears to enjoy spending time with giraffe Milenna. Together, they have had several babies – Rafiki has in fact fathered over a dozen offspring at our Zoo! If you’ve met a few members of our current tower, Aiden (2), Sprinkle (4), Floyd (5), Greg (6) or Mapenzi (2), you’ve met one of Rafiki’s offspring. Other giraffes that he has sired have moved on to other facilities, and Rafiki actually has a great-grandchild now!  

If you’d like to meet Rafiki, stop by our giraffe platform. Even if he’s decided to hang out with keepers in the Barn, you can say hi to one of his sons! 

Brevard Zoo is an independent, not-for-profit organization that receives no recurring government funding for our operating costs. Your generous support enables us to continue to serve our community and continue our vital animal wellness, education and conservation programs.