A woman from California who was visiting the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin got a bit more than she bargained for after she snuck into the giraffe exhibit Saturday evening. Her love of giraffes garnered her a swift kick in the face from a 2-year-old giraffe named Wally. Wally, is a giraffe that stands an imposing 12 feet tall and perhaps, viewing the young woman as more of a threat than as a friend, first licked her in the face and then, with a swift motion, turned and let loose with a foot about the size of a dinner plate, approximately 12 inches across.
According to the Madison Police, Amanda Hall, who is 24 years old and is from San Luis Obispo, California climbed over two different tall security fences in an effort to get closer to the giraffes, which, apparently, she assumed would be grateful for her admiration and attention. Although the injuries sustained by the errant tourist were not life threatening, she is lucky to have escaped with just a hefty fine of $686, which is the standard fine for harassing zoo animals. Hall also likely woke up to a wince-worthy facial injury and speculation from friends and family as to what appears to have been a serious lack of judgment.
Although giraffes may appear warm, fuzzy and congenial and they are a very popular zoo exhibit, the security fences are not designed just to keep the giraffes in but also, to keep misguided visitors out of the enclosure for their own safety. According to the World Wildlife Society, giraffes can be exceedingly dangerous when they sense a threat. For example, when attacked by a lion giraffes have the power in their over six-foot long legs to “shatter the lion’s skull or break its spine with a single deft kick.” In addition, male giraffes actually battle one another by “sparring with their necks and heads.” It has been documented that some of these battles are violent enough to continue until only one giraffe is left standing.
Generally, giraffes, the tallest animals in the world, are “peaceful amblers” living alone or in small herds and they are generally not known to be territorial unless directly threatened or are protecting their young. However, they are not always “gentle giants” and given the fact that Wally was confined without the ability to amble naturally, it may be that he did indeed perceive Hall as a threat. With nowhere to run, Wally clearly relied on his instincts to defend himself and the young woman is lucky in that she was only kicked once in the face when in fact, she could have sustained worse injuries.
The Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin is unusual in that it does not charge admission nor a parking fee. Instead, it operates on donations from “Friends of the Zoo.” While these monetary donations are very important to keep the zoo open to fans of its inhabitants, true “Friends of the Zoo” would be wise not to emulate the rash behavior of California’s Amanda Hall. Hall’s adoration of giraffes and her lapse in judgment garnered her a swift kick in the face, national and likely embarrassing media attention and a stiff fine.
Opinion By Alana Marie Burke