Described as a sweet-natured inquisitive boy, 17-month-old giraffe Billy recently crossed the ditch via container ship to reach his new home at Auckland Zoo, and Senior Ungulates Keeper Ben said Billy was the perfect passenger.

Giraffe populations are experiencing drastic declines in the wild, so in the name of conservation Billy’s move From Australia Zoo to Auckland ensures zoo populations remain genetically diverse and viable.

International travel with a giraffe involves shiploads of logistics, months of planning, and an experienced specialist team to accompany the young bull. Lucas Palmer, Imports Manager of Air Transport World Freight (ATWF), worked closely with our own Curator of Mammals, Warren Spencer, for months prior to fulfill all requirements from government departments on both sides of the Tasman, stating that ‘departing the port with the giraffe is the easy part’.


See what it takes to move a giraffe!

To bring Billy from Australia Zoo to his new home in Auckland required a four-day boat trip and required a whole lot of teamwork

At 10 pm, on Friday 7th February, representatives from Auckland Zoo; the Ministry of Primary Industries; Ports of Auckland; Customs; ATWF; PBS Transport and their highly-skilled truck drivers gathered at the port to safely welcome Billy to his new home. Everything was planned precisely, even down to where Billy was positioned on the ship, surrounded by containers for protection from the elements, and so the crew are able to look in and do regular checks.

Billy had a specialised team travelling on the ship with him to ensure he received world-class care from zoo to zoo. Accompanying him was Kat, a Senior Africa Keeper from Australia Zoo who has looked after Billy his entire life; Jerome, a vet kindly loaned to us from Zoos South Australia; and our very own Senior Ungulates Keeper Ben, who travelled to Australia Zoo a few days before disembarking to learn Billy’s routine, and understand his personality and needs.

“We had to spend 4 days with Billy out at sea, and it was an interesting experience. We checked him 4 times throughout the day – first thing in the morning, late morning, afternoon, and 6pm just before the light started to fade. Billy was very chilled, the perfect passenger really, and he was always up and eating when we checked him. We’d give him some browse throughout the day, some Lucerne, a nice leafy pea hay we feed them, he was always offered his hay net so he could chew and munch on that. He was very receptive to food, very calm, to stand there and watch us and see what we were doing, always cooperating if we needed to come close for something, and make sure he’s doing ok,” Ben said.

Once Billy arrived at Auckland Zoo, it took some incredibly skilled truck drivers to weave the larger crate throughout the narrow paths of the zoo, and a crane to lift and position the opening of Billy’s crate against the door to his giraffe house. It was here that he spent a short period of time in quarantine and was introduced to our 3 female giraffes 18-year-old Rukiya, 3-year-old Kabilli, and 10-year-old Karaka.

At first he took a bit of coaxing to leave the safe limits of his crate, but eventually Billy took a brave leap, and has been settling in and gaining more confidence every day. His introductions with the three girls couldn’t have gone any better, with Rukiya taking a particular shine to him. She is often no more than a few meters away from him and always checking where he is.

It’s an exciting time to come and visit Billy, and our three female giraffes in the savannah area of our African Safari Track, as they explore this new dynamic within their family group. Ben says “Billy has been the perfect addition to the herd and has fit in really well. After all the excitement and planning to get Billy here, it is lovely to finally see him settling and exploring his new home”.