Two-year-old Rocket the Masai giraffe will be moving to the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey in the beginning of June. This move was part of a planned recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan® for Masai giraffes, in which Rocket will join a bachelor herd. As with most animal births in AZA-accredited facilities, Rocket’s move has been anticipated since his birth, as part of his long-term health and happiness, and for the benefit of the entire Masai giraffe population.
Born at the Sacramento Zoo in April 2016, Rocket is already 1,435 pounds and nearly 11’ tall (at birth he weighed 163 pounds and was 6’1” tall) and he still has lots of growing to do. When full-grown, male Masai giraffes can reach up to 19’ in height and weigh as much as 4,000 pounds.
Rocket’s favorite activity is trying to play fight with dad Chifu, the Sacramento Zoo’s resident adult male giraffe. At about Rocket’s age in the wild, he would be off with other males learning how to spar. To replicate that life stage, the Sacramento Zoo has worked with the Species Survival Plan® coordinator for Masai giraffe to identify another home for Rocket where his social needs will continue to be met.
As one may be able to imagine, transporting a giraffe is a tall order. Giraffes are moved via specialized transport trailers – much like a tall horse transport trailer. Rocket will be accompanied throughout the duration of the transport by a veterinarian from Essex County Turtle Back Zoo who will fly to Sacramento and drive with him to their destination in New Jersey.
The Sacramento Zoo is home to both reticulated and Masai giraffes. The Masai giraffe is the largest of the giraffe species, found in southern Kenya and Tanzania. In addition to their differences in size, reticulated and Masai giraffes have slightly different spot patterns – a Masai giraffe’s spots are usually darker and more irregular in shape
The Sacramento Zoo is one of 32 facilities managing more than 120 Masai giraffes in the AZA’s population. While there are currently no additional plans for changes to the Sacramento Zoo’s giraffe herd, the zoo will continue to work with AZA’s Species Survival Plan® coordinators for Masai and reticulated giraffes on future planning for the herd.