Today, Akiki the hand-raised giraffe has hit the road to travel to a new herd on the east coast.
In the wild, male giraffe calves will leave their mothers after they are weaned in search of a new group of giraffe to join.
Having matured into a confident young giraffe, Akiki is now ready to take his first steps into adulthood and settle into a new home.
Perth Zoo Ungulate Keeper, Lauren Sumner, said: “Akiki had a tougher start to life than most and holds a very special place in the hearts of keepers and visitors here at Perth Zoo.
“He will be very missed, but we are so proud that he has grown into a strong, healthy calf and is ready to be with a new herd.”
In his first few days of life he was mismothered, and his prospect of surviving was slim. That’s when our team of dedicated animal carers stepped in to hand-raise him.
“We spent many long hours and late nights bottle-feeding Akiki, and while it was hard work, it was an incredible privilege,” Lauren said.
“It’s been so rewarding watching him grow into a healthy young male, and using his story as a way to educate people about the plight of his species.”
Akiki’s departure is a major conservation milestone and a representation of how zoos have the potential to change the course of history.
No one wants to imagine a world where giraffe no longer exist. But with wild populations facing a ‘silent extinction’, it’s becoming a very real risk.
Wild populations are dwindling; their habitats are disappearing, and they are being hunted unjustly.
In the past 30 years, the overall wild giraffe population has declined by a heartbreaking 40 percent.
That’s why Australian and New Zealand zoos work together to ensure giraffe are continuing to be born into safe homes.
For the past few months, keepers have been crate training Akiki, ensuring he will be comfortable and at-ease for his journey east.
Acompanied by Lauren and a team of zoo keepers, Akiki left Perth Zoo this morning to travel across the country by truck.
“It’ll be sad to say goodbye on the other end, but it’s his time to gain independence away from his family and meet a new herd just like he would in the wild,” Lauren said.
“He’ll continue to grow at his new home, and hopefully in a few years we’ll hear of him becoming a father.”
Akiki’s uplifting story is the perfect example of the work good zoos do. We take the vulnerable under our wing and do everything we can to protect them.
Animals should have the right to thrive, not just survive. That’s why each individual calf born and successfully raised in a conservation zoo, like Akiki, represents a beacon of hope for the future of the species.
From a gangly bundle of joy in need of care, to the personality-filled young man we see today – Akiki’s journey has been wild.
And this is only the beginning.
Good luck, Akiki! We will continue to cheer for you from afar.