Giraffes are back at troubled Burlington County zoo

Visitors in a Jeep encounter a giraffe during their drive through Wild Safari at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, N.J.

Nearly one year after a fire killed a mother and baby giraffe at a small Burlington County zoo, five of the seven giraffes that survived are back.  While their barn at Animal Kingdom was rebuilt, they were temporarily housed at Six Flags Great Adventure Safari in Jackson Township. 

Animal Kingdom, in Springfield, has had a troubled history.  Over the past dozen years, it was cited for more than 200 violations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The Oct. 30 fire erupted four days after the USDA had warned the zoo owner that his license would be revoked if he did not correct the animal neglect and squalor.   

When the fire broke out, Great Adventure agreed to take care of five of the giraffes that had fled the flames.  "Considering eveything the animals have been through, they are very resilient," said Kristin Siebeneicher, Great Adventure spokesperson.  "They had enjoyed being part of our close encounters tour, a bus tour where people feed them carrots and sweet potatoes." 

It's unclear what happened to the two other giraffes that had escaped.      

Animal Kingdom's website enthusiastically announces that the giraffes "are back!!!!!"  A staff member said that patrons are invited to purchase bamboo for $3 to feed to the creatures after paying the $10 admission for adults and $5 for children. 

Meanwhile, Six Flags last month closed the safari to car traffic, ending a popular attraction.  Starting next year, the staff will drive 30-passenger trucks through the safari to allow visitors an up-close but more controlled encounter with the animals.   The Animal Kingdom giraffes, Siebeneicher said, had adapted to the car traffic and were among the "gentle creatures" that visitors had admired over the past year.