The Bronx Zoo is managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which boasts of running more than 500 projects in sixty-five countries through global field offices whose employees work to advance sustainable development; address issues of global climate change, health and well-being, and natural-resource use; and pursue other noble-sounding objectives that attest to the totality of man’s dominion over the lesser beasts. Dana does her best to enrich the lives of the giraffes under her care, giving them brush to eat and toys to play with. Too much stimulation throws the giraffes off. The key is to balance chronic understimulation with the introduction of anything potentially enriching that giraffes might find upsetting or odd, which, it turns out, includes almost everything. “You can’t change it up too much, because they get squeamish and they space out,” Dana tells me.
Last week, she adds, when the zebras kicked a blue ball over the fence into the giraffe enclosure, the giraffes refused to come out of the Giraffe House for the rest of the week. Deprive giraffes of necessary stimulation and they develop a distinctive behavioral syndrome that Dana calls “neurotic tongue.” If you go to a zoo and see giraffes licking the walls, it means that they are not well cared for.