Mzungu the giraffe travels from Dubbo's Taronga Western Plains Zoo for the Canberra's National Zoo and Aquarium | Photos, Video

TARONGA Western Plains Zoo has bid a fond farewell to a popular (not so) little resident who will soon be spotted in the nation's capital.

Four-year-old giraffe Mzungu said goodbye to the Zoo she was born in four years ago to start a new life at Canberra's National Zoo, where she will play an important role in the national breeding program.

If experience was anything to go by, the sight of a giraffe driving down the highway was sure to raise a few human eyebrows, keeper Pascale Benoit said.

She said the zoo's successful breeding program meant it was able to transfer giraffes to other zoos in Australia and even overseas in order to ensure greater genetic diversity in zoo-based populations.

"She's coming of breeding age - we removed her from her natural group because she was in there with her father and we didn't want any little mishaps," she said.

Transferring a giraffe anywhere was no small feat, according to Ms Benoit, who said planning for the journey began long before her departure on Wednesday morning.

Over the past few months Mzungu had been conditioned to stand in her transport crate comfortably.

"To start with the animal has to become used to not being part of a group, so we kept her separate from the exhibit group for crate training, to get her comfortable and feeling secure in that crate," Ms Benoit said.

"We started off feeding her in the crate then later closing the door behind her and increasing the time she was in there each time. In this way they get used to being locked up."

Ms Benoit said giraffes were "pretty laidback animals", so it was not surprising that Mzungu barely batted an eyelid when a crane lifted her crate 10 feet off the ground and hoisted her onto the back of a truck.

"She's fairly inquisitive, and once she works out what's going on she's quite happy to work with you," she said.

"Even the first time we locked her in the box she would stand there by herself for hours. It was good, she felt comfortable in the crate. It was her security blanket."

A keeper from the National Zoo had been organised to accompany Mzungu on her journey to stop at regular intervals to make sure she was travelling well throughout the trip

Once the long-necked traveller had settled in to her new home, keepers at the Canberra zoo would try their hand at matchmaking.

"They have a male lined up for her who I believe is coming from Mogo zoo," Ms Benoit said.

"I just hope that in two years' time they'll have their own little baby."


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