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County Welcomes New Giraffes to Henry Vilas Zoo Family

May 22, 2013
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive 608.267.8823 or cell, 608.843.8858
County Executive

Two Young Reticulated Giraffes Will be Ready for Visitors Soon


The Henry Vilas Zoo is the new home to two young, male, reticulated giraffes that are settling in and should be ready to greet visitors soon, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.


Wally, a one year old, came to the zoo from the Niabi Zoo in Illinois, and Eddie (Sita), four years old, came to the zoo from the Dallas Zoo in Texas.  Henry Vilas Zoo’s previous reticulated giraffes, Bo (Zawadi) and Shaggy (Sweta), were on loan from the Minnesota Zoo and have returned to their home.


“Wally and Eddie have arrived just in time to enjoy a beautiful time of year in their new home,” said Parisi.  “I hope families will take advantage of the great weather we’ve had and plan a visit to welcome our new zoo family members soon.”


Reticulated giraffes are a subspecies of giraffes named for its distinctive pattern—brown, regular, box-shaped spots with white lines in-between.  This pattern is good camouflage in their natural habitat – the dry savannas and open woodlands of northeast Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia).  Each giraffe has a unique pattern of spots, just like a human’s set of fingerprints. 


“Wally and Eddie are great ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild.  The main threats to giraffes are poaching and habitat loss. Less than 80,000 giraffes are thought to remain in the wild,” said Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz. “We are very passionate about providing the Madison community with the opportunity to visit these spectacular animals for years to come.”


Giraffes are the tallest animals in the world and have several amazing adaptations for their large bodies.  For example, a Giraffe has a complex pressure-regulation system in its neck that stops blood from rushing to its brain when it lowers its head.


Visitors will soon be able to watch Wally and Eddie do what giraffes do best—eat.  Giraffes have adapted to munch on the tall, thorny Acacia tree—they have tall necks and legs that allow them to reach high branches; grasping tongues that grab branches and pull them to their mouths; and very thick eyelashes that protect them from the long Acacia thorns that are pulled toward their eyes during feeding.

Wally, Eddie, and the rest of the Henry Vilas Zoo family can be seen every day from 9:30am to 5pm.  Visitors can also keep up to date on everything new at the zoo at vilaszoo.orgor on the zoo’s Facebook page at

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