Giraffe, goat unlikely pair

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Zookeeper Kathy Yannotti says the Hillcrest Zoo’s giraffe, Jael, is gentle with African pygmy goat Mose and the two seem like a good match.

By Tony Gutierrez: CNJ staff writer

Zoogoers have been surprised in the last month to see the mismatched pair of Jael the giraffe and Mose the African pygmy goat sharing an exhibit at the Hillcrest Zoo, said zookeeper Lisa Fox.

Fox said she put the two animals together because Jael had been lonely and by herself for five years.

“Growing up, I remembered a lot of people raising race horses having some kind of companion animal,” Fox said. “(It) could be a goat, a chicken or a dog.”

After discussing it with zoo officials, Fox walked Mose to the giraffe fence pen and let them meet each other for about 30 minutes weekly for four weeks.

“From the outside of the fence, I’d take him over once in a while and they’d check each other out,” Fox said. “They were very curious, so we decided to put them together, and they immediately went up to each other. They were nose-to-nose, checking each other out. He got to kicking around and playful, and it didn’t bother her.”

Zookeeper Kathy Yannotti said the goal would be to get a male giraffe, but that is too costly. The zoo has put other animals together such as a camel and a donkey, Yannotti said.

“They’ll eat together,” she said. “The goat’s more aggressive with the giraffe. If he thinks he’s not getting enough, he’ll push her off. She’s real gentle with him.”

David Sanders, who maintains the giraffe pen, said he was worried at first, but after working with Jael, the two have become friendly with each other.

“The goat’s made her real gentle. Since we put the goat in there, she’s calmed down a whole lot,” Sanders said. “Used to, I’d go in and feed her leaves and limbs and stuff, from there it was alfalfa from the hand. She’s come up to me several times. I just held out my hand and she’d sniff and let me pet her.”

Fox said Jael has been less shy and competed with her pygmy counterpart for attention. Fox said she hopes Mose will teach the giraffe to go into her house, which she has not done yet.

Fox said people will notice the goat right away and ask about it, while others overlook it.

“We’ll probably have to put up a sign to explain it,” Fox said. “The ones who notice it right away will stop you and ask. Once you explain it, they get a big old grin and start laughing and say, ‘Well, it does make sense.’”