A new Giraffe arrived at Perth Zoo today after a three day cross-country journey from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.

Kitoto, the six year old female Giraffe made the 4200 kilometre journey to be paired with Perth Zoo’s male giraffe, Armani, as part of the Australasian Giraffe Breeding Program, as numbers of these gentle giants plummet across Africa.

Senior Perth Zoo Keeper, Kaelene McKay, said: “The latest research out of Africa indicates there could be less than 80,000 Giraffe roaming the African Plains. This makes the collaborative work of zoos and our breeding programs more important than ever before.”

Perth Zoo are experts at Giraffe transfers having moved these majestic animals between Perth and zoos on the eastern states numerous times. The aim is to maintain genetic diversity between the regional populations to provide a safety net against extinction.

“Any animal transport is meticulously planned, but when you’re dealing with an animal as tall as a Giraffe there’s added complexities and it is a big team effort,” said Kaelene. “We obviously had to map out a route that didn’t have any low bridges or over passes; we had a police escort for parts of the journey; electrical wires had to be raised and in some places we even had a green light corridor.”

“She’s certainly a VIG – Very Important Giraffe!”

“We’re looking forward to introducing Kitoto to our male Giraffe, Armani. He’s an impressive five metre tall giraffe and like most bulls of breeding age, he’s only got two things on his mind, food and females!”

“Armani has previously sired three Giraffe calves, so we’re hoping with the arrival of Kitoto we will once again celebrate a Giraffe birth in Perth,” said Kaelene. “However they have one of the longest gestations, so once we’ve confirmed she’s pregnant we will have about 15 months to wait.”

Since 1995, the Zoo has successfully bred seven Giraffe, including Makulu who was photographed in the famous photo ‘The Kiss’. Makulu is now at Melbourne Zoo with descendants living throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Kitoto’s home in the short term will be the Zoo at South Perth, however in the medium to long term she may be moved to the open range zoo proposed at Chittering, which will become a centre for breeding exotic species such as Giraffe, rhinoceros, Zebras and African Lions.

Fact file
  • Research by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature indicates that there has been a 40% decline in the number of giraffe over the past 15 years;
  • Main threats to giraffe include poaching for bushmeat and habitat loss;
  • Perth Zoo is now home to three giraffe, Kitoto, male Armani and elderly female Marama.