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Meet Wally: Young giraffe joins zoo

2 reticulated giraffes ready for visitors

MADISON, Wis. - Two new tall residents at Madison's zoo will debut to visitors this week.

The Henry Vilas Zoo is home for Wally and Eddie, two young, male, reticulated giraffes who are settling in and should be ready to greet visitors Thursday, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said Wednesday.

Wally, a 1-year-old, came to the zoo from the Niabi Zoo in Illinois, and Eddie (Sita), 4 years old, came to Madison from the Dallas Zoo in Texas.

Henry Vilas Zoo's previous reticulated giraffes, Bo (Zawadi) and Shaggy (Sweta), were on loan from the Minnesota Zoo and have returned home.

Reticulated giraffes are a subspecies of giraffes named for a distinctive pattern -- brown, regular, box-shaped spots with white lines in between, the county said in a news release. The pattern is good camouflage in their natural habitat -- the dry savannas and open woodlands of northeast Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia).

Giraffes are the tallest animals in the world and have several adaptations for their large bodies like a complex pressure-regulation system in its neck that stops blood from rushing to its brain when it lowers its head.

The county said on Wednesday, visitors will be able to watch Wally and Eddie do what giraffes do best -- eat. Giraffes have adapted to munch on the tall, thorny Acacia tree -- they have tall necks and legs that allow them to reach high branches; grasping tongues that grab branches and pull them to their mouths; and thick eyelashes that protect them from the long Acacia thorns that are pulled toward their eyes during feeding.

The zoo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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