Birthday celebration is a real big deal for giraffe

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Things are always looking up when you’re a giraffe - and Behansin the giraffe certainly had a lot of admirers when he celebrated his ninth birthday at Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

Visitors signed an over-sized card and the birthday boy got a special treat of an oak branch to graze on to mark his special day.

Behansin, the tallest of the Branton park’s four giraffes, who weighs in at 1,100 kg, also got time to indulge in his favourite pastime - scratching his long neck on tree branches before tucking into his birthday meal.

“He was a shy calf but has matured into a confident character, who is the dominant male of the group,” said Cheryl Williams, director of the award-winning park.

“He is very good natured and always a favourite with visitors so it was good to spoil him a bit on this birthday.”

The four giraffes - Behansin, older statesman Jasper, 14, and young four-year-old bulls Palle and Jambo, enjoy life in a £350,000 state of the art enclosure.

Behansin is looking forward to a long and contented life and hopes to follow in the hoof steps of his mother Matilda, who is 17, and his grandmother Dribbles who lived till she was 33, making her the oldest recorded giraffe in the UK.

Britt Jenson, head of hoofstock, added: ”He spends hours play-fighting with the young bulls and is always gentle with them.”

YWP welcomed the giraffes over a year ago and they are already a firm favourite in their reserve, which allows unspoilt access and views.

The innovative giraffe enclosure gives visitors the chance to get up close to the animals, and observe them from just a metre away.

They can also view them from an 8m high platform when they are outside enjoying the sun in their one-acre sand enclosure.

Set in 70 acres of countryside, the YWP provides unrivalled access to some of the most amazing and endangered animals in the world.

Its unique collection of animals includes Amur tigers and leopards, the most endangered big cats on the planet, lions, zebras, antelope, African hunting dogs, meerkats, wallabies, squirrel monkeys, camels and more.

There are also plans to bring a polar bear to the park from a zoo in Mexico.

Behansin’s birthday comes after a difficult few weeks for the park - one of Yorkshire’s most popular tourist attractions.

Johnny Junior, one of the pride of lions rescued from squalid conditions at Romania’s Oradea Zoo four years ago, had to be put to sleep after suffering fatal injuries in a fight with four lionesses in his enclosure.

And earlier this year, Cezar, another of the pride also had to be put to sleep after suffering from an illness.