COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Giraffe "Viv" is already turning two years old at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. The little giraffe was born two days after the Fourth of July, on July 6, 2019, from parents Msitu and Khalid.
According to the Zoo, just six hours after she was born, Viv famously leap-frogged over Msitu’s back (while she was lying down), gaining an adorable reputation as independent, strong, and super-charged.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo will have a birthday celebration Saturday, July 17th from 10 a.m. to noon in African Rift Valley for Viv’s second birthday party, complete with a ‘birthday cake’ for Viv, served at 11:15 a.m. The celebration will include opportunities for Viv’s fans to write her a birthday card, sing her happy birthday and visit our 17-member herd of giraffes.
“Knowing our Viv, we’re stepping into the ‘Terrific Twos,’ and she’ll continue to keep us on our toes as she has from day one,” said Amy Schilz, a senior lead keeper in African Rift Valley, and Viv’s primary trainer. “This girl has become known for her adorable antics, like running after the cranes and guinea fowl in the yard, or stretching to reach a tree we didn’t intend to be giraffe food. Pretty much any time we get a radio call that one of the giraffes is up to something, we know it’s probably Viv!”
“She has become really outgoing since becoming part of the four ‘littles’ group,” said Schilz. “You can usually find Viv and Ohe together. They get each other going in the yard and will kick up the dirt and encourage each other to run around. We’ve also seen them ‘cuddling,’ when they take naps and lie down right next to each other in the barn mid-day. Because they seem to really like to be together, we have ‘baby training days,’ in the barn.”
To perform the important hoof-care work that is vital to the giraffe’s overall health, keepers train the giraffe to voluntarily participate. Through positive reinforcement training, the giraffe learns to approach a hoof care block, place one foot on the block and keep it there while their trainers trim their hooves. Viv has mastered the approach and placement. Each time a giraffe completes a successful step in the training, they get a reward.
“Sometimes she outsmarts me in those training sessions,” said Schilz. “She’s learned if she touches her hoof to the block and then takes it off and puts it on again, she gets more treats. So now I’m having to go back in my training and figure out a new way to move forward. It’s been a really great team bonding experience because we all share what works for her unique needs. We tailor training to each giraffe, and she is certainly pushing us and challenging us to stay flexible. We’ll get there.”