Two female giraffes join gang at zoo in Vienna, Austria

Two female giraffes have joined the gang at the world’s oldest zoo in Vienna during its fourth Covid-19 closure.

The existing giraffes at Schoenbrunn Zoo in the Austrian capital Vienna, named Sofie, Fleur and Obi, all craned their necks as the females Carla and Rita arrived at the animal park and join the gang.

The Viennese zoo said the two females used to be part of the Schoenbrunn population but were relocated to a nearby centre when their enclosure underwent reforms.

Carla and Rita lived with Kimbar, Europe’s oldest bull giraffe for many years, but he was too old to be transported to the newly-designed giraffe area in Schoenbrunn Zoo, so the females remained with him until his death in May at the age of 27.

Kimbar, who was a resident of the Tiergarten Schonbrunn Zoo in Austria’s capital Vienna was euthanised on 14th May.

The decision was taken because of severe joint problems when it was realised that medication was no longer helping him and he was in unbearable pain. 

Spokesman Johanna Bukovsky said: ‘Giraffes, especially males, rarely reach over 20 years of age. It was clear to all of us that ‘farewell day’ could come any time. Nevertheless, we are extremely sad.’

Bukovsky added that Kimbar was lovingly cared for until his last day and said: ‘Kimbar had special demands when he reached his advanced age. Since his teeth had already fallen off, we had to soak the pellets he ate, while the hay had to be steamed and the vegetables had to be chopped in pieces.’

According to her Kimbar particularly enjoyed being brushed with a special broom around the neck, chest and stomach by the zoo keepers.

Kimbar was brought to the Tiergarten Schonbrunn Zoo in Vienna when he was two years old as part of the EAZA Ex-situ Programme, formerly known as European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), which is a breeding program aiming to protect threatened species in zoos.

Transported by trailer, Carla and Rita arrived at the Viennese zoo on 25th November, and the new arrivals are gradually getting to know their herd members.

Zoo director Stephan Hering-Hagenbeck said: ‘In the wild, giraffes live in larger groups, the structure of which changes again and again. We therefore assume that the merger will be beneficial for everyone.’

Sofie, Fleur and Obi are reticulated giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata), also known as Somali giraffes, however Carla and Rita are from a subspecies that has intermingled over the course of their family tree and they are no longer integrated in the park’s breeding programme.

The zoo said in a statement: ‘Before anyone can visit the zoo’s herd of giraffes, they will have to be patient. The zoo has been closed again since Monday due to the nationwide lockdown. For Vienna Zoo, this is the fourth coronavirus-related closure in the last two years.’

The zoo added that the restrictions ‘pose financial challenges’ with regards to ‘feeding, energy, and staff’ and that the ‘transportation of the giraffes alone cost around EUR 2,000’.