Penelope, The Homesick Giraffe

Penelope was born on the savanna in South Africa. From the moment Penelope was born her mother immediately loved her. Penelope was not unlike any other giraffe.  Her mother carefully checked her for size and color. Penelope had all of the usual spots like any other giraffe. Her mother was especially proud of her long neck.  A  giraffe is not worth it’s salt unless it had a long neck and a long tongue.  Penelope and her mother did everything together. They were inseparable.

In the wild, a grown male giraffe weighs between 2,400 to 3,000 pounds and a grown female weighs anywhere as much as 1,600 to  2,600 pounds. Both male and female have horns on their head. These horns are called ossicones and many males have thicker, and less hairy ossicones than females, due to sparring with other male giraffes. A group of giraffes is called a tower. Some giraffes live with all-male groups. Some live in a mixed group. However,  Penelope and her mother lived with other females who helped take care of her. Penelope could not wait to grow up to be like her mom who she admired tremendously.

Penelope and her mother roamed and browsed the savanna for tall trees for mother and small branches for herself. Everything went well until one day a zookeeper from the west came and took Penelope away from her mother. Penelope was placed in a cage and the cage was placed on a ship.  It wasn’t that long of a trip but it seemed like the ship traveled for days to Penelope.

When Penelope arrived at her new home she was weighed and humans with white coats progged every part of her. They all agreed she had been well taken care of. It was no longer the responsibility of her mother to see after her diet but she would be taken care of by the City Zoo. Her diet now would consist of a formula to substitute for her mother’s milk.  Acadia leaves & shoots and herbs & vines came later in the dieting game.  When she grew up,  more substitutes and tall trees would be planted in her habitat provided by the zoo. To those born in captivity,  it was no big deal.  She had free food brought to her every day. A place to live, having no natural enemies. To all the other animals, life was good. But Penelope missed her home on the savanna where she could run free with her mother.  Surprisingly, in spite of her weight, Penelope ‘s mother could run up to about 35 miles an hour.  In spite of her long legs and her ability to run, she could not outrun the truck that took Penelope away. She and her mother found food on their own and they didn’t need a bed. They could sleep standing up.  Their long legs were both a blessing and a curse.  They could not reach the ground to drink water because their long legs made them too high from the ground. This means when giraffes wish to drink water, they must bend their legs awkwardly to reach the ground.

Penelope wanted to go home. One day a busload of little school children came to the City Zoo. The children were placed in open trucks so the animals could roam free. One disobedient boy got out of his truck and threw a rock that hit Penelope on her leg.  Penelope kicked the disobedient child and sent him to the hospital. The Newscasters and T.V. Announcers said Penelope had to be put down. The other children watching the incident unfold said no. The disobedient little boy provoked Penelope. She only retaliated to defend herself.

The City Zoo Keepers decided to take Penelope back to the wild. Penelope and her mother reunited never to part again.


The End

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