Feeding Giraffes at the Living Desert

It’s zoo week here on the blog!

You know, I go back and forth on zoos. I really only like the ones where the animals have tons of space to roam around, where they live almost as they would in the wild. I can’t stand to see animals in cages especially when they pace back and forth in frustration. But zoos do play an important role in conservation and education.

I fell in love with elephants as a child when my family visited Lion Country in California. We drove around the zoo with the windows up and later I got to hold a baby cougar and I even got to ride a baby elephant!!! I will never forget it – he had really long whisker like hairs. I have been an animal lover ever since, especially elephants.

Lion Country isn’t there anymore, but when we were in Palm Springs I heard about the Living Desert, a 1,800 acre botanical garden and zoo. I wasn’t going to get to hold a baby cougar or ride an elephant but they did have something pretty special — you get to feed the giraffes!!!

Here are a few images I made of the giraffes where they live. You can click on any of the images to view larger versions.

Giraffes at the Living Desert Zoo, Palm Springs, California

Giraffe at the Living Desert Zoo, Palm Springs, California

Giraffe at the Living Desert Zoo, Palm Springs, California

I made all 3 of these with my 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM lens.

And here is Ray feeding the giraffe.

Giraffe at the Living Desert Zoo, Palm Springs, California

I got to feed him too, it was pretty cool.

All of this was just a warm up because after the Living Desert we visited the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park both of which were very different experiences. I’ll tell you more about those later this week.

What do you think about zoos? Good? Bad? Do you have a favourite zoo? I would love to know, please leave a comment!

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  1. says

    Zoos? I’m a big fan. I live near 3 zoos, two in SC, and one on NC, and have visited them, camera in hand, multiple times. I love it. I really like to see the look on the children’s faces when they get to feed a giraffe, or get their first look at a real lion or elephant.

    I prefer the zoos with open enclosures. It’s much easier to see the animals and to take photos.

    These are wonderful shots and very good reasons for having zoos.
    Paul recently posted..Nice to see resultsMy Profile

  2. says

    What fun! And what beautiful creatures they are. Like you, I have mixed feelings about zoos – they do serve an educational role and for some people, are the closest they’ll ever get to knowing “wildlife”, which is better than not having any experiences with our fellow creatures. But of course, I detest the idea of any animals in captivity – especially the large ones that were born to roam.
    Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment recently posted..Beauty in the Winter GardenMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Laurie, it’s a hard balance I guess. I do like how more and more the zoos are moving to large open spaces for the animals. I like to see them, but I don’t like to see them sad. Thanks for your comments.

    • says

      Hi Kaz, you are so right!! They remind me a bit of pelicans that way. They are so graceful flying but so awkward once they land! Creatures are so interesting to watch… Thanks for your comments!

  3. Sarah says

    Wonderful photos of the giraffes!

    Zoos play a huge role in conservation efforts throughout the world. Many species of animals would already be extinct, if weren’t for zoos and their efforts. I had no idea of the importance of zoos until my daughter became a zoology major. Many of her upper level classes at the university focus these students on the important role they are to embark upon once they have their degrees. Classes are constantly teaching ethics in animal habitats, handling, and breeding. Questions such as “should the wooly mammoth be brought back” are asked. It is highly possible given today’s technology, is it moral, probably not. We, humans can hardly take care of the elephant population we have. Zoos help in conservation efforts in all of these arenas. The problem lies in animal trading and wildlife sales. The laws are lax and many people think it is fun to own a wild creature till it’s not. Go to any sanctuary and you will probably find an animal who is a victim of “backdoor sales”.

    The mission statement for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums reads as follows:

    The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) provides its members the services, high standards and best practices needed to be leaders and innovators in animal care, wildlife conservation and science, conservation education, the guest experience, and community engagement.

    We not only need the animals;they need us. Supporting your local wonderful, educated, great habitat zoo is one of the best places for your conservation dollars.

    • says

      Hello Sarah, thank you so much for this. It is really interesting for me to read about the kinds of things zoology students study. Now I wish I took zoology!! Such important questions about the state of life on earth and the human impact both good and bad. I really appreciate your contributing your comments here.

  4. Jennifer Cox says

    I like the Giraffes, but maybe you would like to check out this clip from the wonderful new BBC Africa series, before getting too close 😉

    On the subject of Zoos, I’m not a big fan these days, although I accept that they may have a role in conservation and education. Having said that I do, occasionally, enjoy visiting a small, well kept zoo not too far from where I live. Although they have some larger animals like Tigers, Rhino, Zebras, it’s mostly the smaller stuff.

    • says

      Hi Jennifer, for some reason the clip wont load. I’ll have to try again because it looks pretty interesting based on what’s going on in the thumbnail photo!!! They must have a lot of muscle in those long necks. I too have found that I have enjoyed some of the smaller zoos , like this one, more than the larger zoos where the animals are packed in more tightly. Thanks for your comments, can’t wait to see that clip!

      • Jennifer Cox says

        Hi Anne,

        The series has only just finished in the UK this week. Guess it’s restricted access until it’s been shown in the U.S.

        Well worth watching, if you’re able to.

    • says

      Thank you very much Toad! It was a fun day just watching and getting to know the behaviour of the giraffes and getting to feed them was an extra special experience. They did have other animals too but for me it was all about the giraffes.

  5. Jasmyn says

    Ideally, I prefer Wildlife sanctuaries over zoos but it’s not a perfect world. The Living Desert is a favorite place of ours to visit but it’s a bittersweet experience. I love seeing the animals but it pains my heart to see wild animals in captivity. I’m glad they do rescues and rehabilitation there. It’s a struggle in this world for balance.
    Wonderful photos as always.

    • says

      Hi Jasmyn, I agree that it is hard to create a balance. Sometimes the zoos are taking animals that would otherwise be killed, so it’s good to know a bit of background about them. Thanks for the compliment on my photos :)


  1. […] Feeding Giraffes at the Living Desert – as Anne McKinnell continues her adventures travelling with her husband we get to enjoy some wonderful shots from places we might not otherwise get a chance to see.  This incredible post features a short series of photos of giraffe’s in a large, outdoor zoo setting.  Each of the images shows the beauty and character of each of the animals, making this a post that is sure to be enjoyed by everyone who visits. […]

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