Aucklanders got a glimpse of a very tall passenger during their lunch break today.
Young male giraffe, Mtundu, has begun his journey from Auckland Zoo to Sydney.
Mtundu sets sail for Sydney this evening, bound for a new life at Mogo Zoo as part of the Australasian zoo's regional breeding programme for this threatened species.
The public caught a glimpse of Mtundu being transported in his purpose-built crate from about 1pm as he made his way to Ports of Auckland's Fergusson Wharf.
He went via Great North Rd, St Lukes Rd, Balmoral Rd, Mt Eden Rd and shops, Symonds St, Anzac Ave to Beach Rd. The Zoo's Facebook and Twitter is updating his progress.
Travelling with the 15-month-old on his three-to-four-day sea voyage on Hamburg Sud's 42,000 tonne container ship, Hammonia Galicia, will be with the Zoo's Pridelands team leader Nat Sullivan and vet, Dr Melanie Leech.
Sullivan says it's always a tall order to take a giraffe to sea, she hopes Mtundu will take his big OE in his stride.
"Mtundu's a very relaxed giraffe with a lovely nature, and that's really helped with his crate training for this trip, which has gone extremely well over the past few months.
"On board, he'll be positioned in front of the bridge, protected from any adverse weather. Plus both myself and Melanie will have access to him 24/7 so he'll also have the security and comfort of familiar faces, and we'll be able to monitor him closely," says Sullivan.
Luggage for the 500kg giraffe will include medical supplies and plenty of food options - including lucerne, pellets and a variety of fruit and vegetables.
From Sydney, Mtundu will have a road journey south to Mogo Zoo where he will be integrated with his new family.
"This is a positive and important move for the regional breeding programme, but we're naturally always sad to farewell our animals. We'll especially miss Mtundu, who was, dare I say, a favourite, and a great time waster. He loved to play fight with his dad Zabulu, and was playmate for our new female Kabili, who was born on New Year's Eve," says Sullivan.
The global giraffe population has plummeted by up to 40 per cent over the past 30 years, and the species has now been classed as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.
Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund supports the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) whose work and research efforts have contributed to genetic analysis uncovering that there may be four species of giraffe, not one, as previously thought. These findings highlight the urgent need for further in-depth study of the four genetically isolated species to help inform future conservation efforts.
Giraffe fast facts
Auckland Zoo giraffe Mtundu, born on August 21, 2015, is the offspring of 19-year-old male Zabulu and 7-year-old female Kiraka. With Mtundu's departure, the zoo's giraffe herd now stands at four: Zabulu, adult females Rukiya and Kiraka and female calf Kabili (meaning "twice in Zulu") - the surviving calf of twins born to Kiraka and Zabulu on New Year's Eve.
Since 1998, habitat loss and poaching has resulted in giraffe populations plummeting from 140,000 to just 80,000 individuals today.
Giraffe are now listed as "vulnerable" on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List.
Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund supports the research and conservation work of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) whose work and research efforts have contributed to uncovering that there may be four species of giraffe - northern, southern, reticulated and masai - not just one as previously thought.