Our ‘firecracker,’ Viv, is turning two years old! Born two days after the Fourth of July, on July 6, 2019, Msitu and Khalid’s daughter gained her nickname pretty much immediately and has lived up to it ever since. Just six hours after she was born, Viv famously leap-frogged over Msitu’s back (while she was lying down), gaining an adorable reputation as independent, strong and super-charged.
Our partner, Children’s Hospital Colorado, is also celebrating the ‘terrific twos!’ They opened southern Colorado’s first pediatric-only hospital, right here in Colorado Springs, on July 17, 2019. To celebrate, Children’s Hospital Colorado is throwing our ever-vivacious Viv a birthday party – and you’re invited. Join us for a belated birthday on Sat., July 17, 2021, from 10 a.m. to noon in African Rift Valley for Viv’s second birthday party, complete with a ‘birthday cake’ for Viv, served at 11:15 a.m. The celebration will include opportunities for Viv’s fans to write her a birthday card, sing her happy birthday and visit our 17-member herd of giraffe.
“Knowing our Viv, she’ll continue to keep us on our toes as she has from day one,” said Amy Schilz, senior lead keeper in African Rift Valley, and Viv’s primary trainer. “This girl has become known for her adorable antics, like running after the cranes and guinea fowl in the yard, or stretching to reach a tree we didn’t intend to be giraffe food. Pretty much any time we get a radio call that one of the giraffe is up to something, we know it’s probably Viv!”
Viv seemed to surpass giraffe calf milestones with ease, but her independence meant that she seemed to prefer to be alone more than other giraffe, too. That has all changed since 2-year-old Ohe, 9-month-old BB and 3-year-old Panya joined the herd. Viv’s keepers say she seems to have come out of her shell with guests and the herd, since her three ‘besties’ have boosted her confidence.
“She has become really outgoing since becoming part of the four ‘littles’ group,” said Schilz. “You can usually find Viv and Ohe together. They get each other going in the yard, and will kick up the dirt and encourage each other to run around. We’ve also seen them ‘cuddling,’ when they take naps and lie down right next to each other in the barn mid-day. Because they seem to really like to be together, we have ‘baby training days,’ in the barn.”
To perform the important hoof care work that is vital the giraffe’s overall health, keepers train the giraffe to voluntarily participate. Through positive reinforcement training, the giraffe learn to approach a hoof care block, place one foot on the block and keep it there while their trainers trim their hooves. Viv has mastered the approach and placement, but has other plans about what happens next. Each time a giraffe completes a successful step in the training, they get a reward. Smart and sassy Viv is well aware.
“Sometimes she outsmarts me in those training sessions,” said Schilz. “She’s learned if she touches her hoof to the block and then takes it off and puts it on again, she gets more treats. So now I’m having to go back in my training and figure out a new way to move forward. It’s been a really great team bonding experience, because we all share what works for her unique needs. We tailor training to each giraffe, and she is certainly pushing us and challenging us to stay flexible. We’ll get there.”
Please join us in wishing Viv a very happy second birthday, and in thanking our friends at Children’s Hospital Colorado for their partnership!Viv’s 2nd Birthday Party
In Partnership with Children’s Hospital Colorado
All are invited; Zoo admission is required
Saturday, July 17, 2021
African Rift Valley
10 a.m to noon
11:15 a.m. ‘birthday cake’ for Viv