By Beth Deitchman
Good things often come in tall packages, as guests experiencing Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom saw firsthand recently. A two-month-old Masai giraffe calf has just made her debut on the savanna, and Aella (pronounced “eye-la”) is a sight to behold.
Aella, who was five-feet-tall when she was born on June 29, was named after an Amazon warrior, and is already known to be brave, bold and a little adventurous. Her curious and independent spirit shines through as she begins to explore the savanna and take her first few steps away from her mom, Lily. As the youngest and smallest giraffe in the herd, Aella is easy for guests to spot.
Like all giraffes, Aella is a herbivore. After nursing for approximately the first year of her life, Aella will feast in the bounty of the savanna and, when fully grown, use her 18-inch tongue to strip leaves off thorny branches from the tops and sides of trees to eat up to 75 pounds of food a day.
Lily and George, Aella’s dad, were chosen to breed through the Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and ensures responsible breeding of threatened and endangered species. Breeding this pair is important to the long-term survival of the species because it adds more genetic diversity to the giraffe population, which helps ensure future generations. There are approximately 32,000 Masai giraffes left in the wild—found primarily in Kenya and Tanzania—and the population continues to be at risk to poaching and habitat loss.
The Disney Conservation Fund supports conservation efforts in Africa to protect wildlife habitats, including those of giraffes. Earlier this year, several Disney animal care experts went to Uganda to help relocate a herd of giraffes across the Nile River to establish a newer, safer habitat away from oil-drilling fields. Another team went to Kenya to support a giraffe and zebra population census.
To learn more about giraffes and the threats they face in the wild, visit DisneyAnimals.com.