Gentle Giant: Santa Barbara Zoo’s Giraffes

We went to Santa Barbara this weekend so my Dad and I could run the Chardonnay 5K at Leadbetter Beach, his first race. (Note: We crossed the finish line together at 30:12.) I paid for Dad’s entry fee as part of his Christmas present, and we both have been training for the last three months. It has been fun to talk training schedules and race pace in anticipation of our big event. For me, running with my dad was the highlight of our three-day weekend.

Meanwhile, for the boys the high point of our trip was a toss up. They enjoyed eating ice cream at Stearns Wharf (go figure) and feeding a very hungry Masai giraffe named Michael at the Santa Barbara Zoo. At the zoo, we paid an extra $6 per child, and each boy got a handful of romaine lettuce and a chance to stand nose to nose with a giant. Each time the boys offered Michael a leaf, he stretched out his long, purple tongue, wrapping it around the leaf the way a boa coils around its prey. This is the same motion he would use in the wild to strip leaves off the branches of his favorite acacia trees. We learned some other fun facts about giraffes:

  • The purple color of a giraffe’s tongue protects it from sunburn.
  • The giraffe’s calloused tongue and sticky saliva protect the animal from the sharp thorns of the acacia tree.
  • A giraffe has to eat up to 75 pounds of leaves each day and spends much of its time eating.

For those planning a trip to Santa Barbara with children, we also recommend: