SINGAPORE — The epic journey taken by Adhil and Balaji, two young Rothschild's giraffes, from India to Singapore is no tall story.
Transporting the animals from the Mysuru Zoo in Mysore to the Singapore Zoo required a 22-hour inter-state road trip and seven-day sea voyage, said Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) in a news release on Thursday (30 September).
After arriving here on 26 May, the giraffes underwent a three-month quarantine period to ensure they settled well into their new habitat, which they share with the zoo's two existing adult giraffes, Marco and Jubilee.
Visitors can now observe the male giraffes – both one year and four months old – at the zoo's Wild Africa zone and they will "slowly be conditioned for the thrice daily feeding sessions", said WRS, which manages the Singapore Zoo.
Adhil and Balaji are part of an animal exchange between the zoos, following their discussions from 2018. Mysuru Zoo has also facilitated earlier exchanges with WRS, involving animals such as the sloth bears and a lion-tailed macaque.
Among the challenges faced in transporting the giraffes from India to Singapore was the lack of suitable air freights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given how fast the animals were growing, the team involved decided to go with surface transport. This involved detailed preparations to minimise the risk to the animals. The WRS team also reached out to partner zoos, including New Zealand's Auckland Zoo and Australia's Monarto Zoo, to learn from their experience in the sea transfer of giraffes.
"In addition, road recces and a dry-run simulation involving mock-ups of crates were conducted, in order to map out the best possible route to Mandai once the giraffes had arrived at Jurong Port," said WRS.
Two experienced WRS animal caretakers also accompanied the ungulates on their nine-day land and sea journey. They arrived in India a month before the animals' scheduled departure date and helped to condition them to the custom-designed crates that would be used for the trip.
These crates featured adjustable tops to allow the lanky animals to stretch to their full heights for most of the journey, while also letting the crates "duck" when needed to avoid road structures.
"We are very excited to welcome these gentle giants to Singapore Zoo, and have since introduced them to our resident father-and-son duo, Marco and Jubilee. The current giraffe exhibit has ample space for the four, and we have added additional water troughs and salt lick blocks in preparation of their debut," said Parmasivam Ramasamy, WRS' curator of herbivores, who accompanied the giraffes on their journey.
Rothschild's giraffes are a threatened subspecies of giraffe, with fewer than 2,000 left in the wild. Adhil and Balaji will be part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria's ex-situ programme for the species, which aims to maintain healthy and sustainable populations of animals under human care for both conservation and education, said WRS.
In August, WRS' River Safari saw the birth of Singapore's first giant panda cub. Its parents Kai Kai and Jia Jia arrived in Singapore in 2012 on a 10-year loan from China. Members of the public have been invited to name the male cub before it turns 100 days old.