Monday, September 15, 2008

Giraffes are my neighbors

For more than a year, I've had spotted long-necked neighbors. I live next door to the Audubon Zoo beside the giraffe run.

Bushes used to block my view, but at some point, zoo staff cut back the vegetation, so the exotic African beasts were in clear sight. I'd often see a walker or jogger, standing beside their pen and staring way, WAY up, mesmerized by the graceful, gentle giraffes. The animals would gaze back, as if in a staring competition. Other than that, their behavior seemed quite unremarkable. They'd eat hay, nibble the bark off the trees they could reach and stroll around their pen, without making a sound.

One evening, however, I noted two adults, standing side-by-side and swaying in rhythm as if in a ballet. Suddenly, one swung her head in a wide arc, bonking the other in the neck with her horns. Though the impact was palpable, her partner stood perfectly still. She reeled back and struck once again. I called to my friend to come see -- something was definitely happening! Finally, the other giraffe reciprocated and wocked her back. I assumed this must be a mating ritual.

Later, I researched giraffes online, but found nothing so fascinating on YouTube as what I had seen with my own eyes. I asked another tenant in my building if he had seen the giraffes' behavior. Yes, and he considered calling the zookeeper because he thought they might be hurting each other. The zoo staff would have been amused.

I relayed the information from the Internet to him. "Giraffes are not particular who they do it with and they do it year round," I told him.

He reflected then remarked: "Sounds like New Orleans."

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