Included in our admission package to Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida, were tickets for feeding the giraffes and the Lorikeets. After we kayaked, we headed along the raised boardwalks until we reached the giraffes. The viewing platform allowed us to hold out our hands at the level of the giraffes’ heads. One giraffe craned its neck forward, and a long, brown tongue licked toward the food in my wife’s hands. The staff had given us hard, thick crackers, and I had given mine to my wife while I switched on the camera. Yet the giraffe's tongue proved faster than my shutter. By the time I had snapped off a few photos, nearly all the crackers had vanished.
My wife exchanged the final cracker for the camera, and she took a few photos while I broke the food into ever-smaller chunks. When the final cracker had vanished, I reached out to pet the giraffe, but it pulled away. “You can pet the males all you want,” a zoo attendant told me, “but she doesn’t like to be touched.”
So, she could lick my hands all she wanted, but I couldn’t touch her? Sounds like a female to me.
At the Aviary, I learned that some animals were less aloof. The staff told us how to hold the cup of nectar, and that we should place our free hands over the top until we reached wherever we wished to stand. But the moment we stepped through the doorway, the Lorikeets descended on us. They landed on our arms, shoulders, and heads. Their talons dug into our hands, but those were pinpricks in comparison to their beaks, which dug into the hands covering the cups. When we reached the center of the area, and took our hands off the cups, the birds scrambled over our arms and hands, fighting each other for proximity to the precious nectar.
I’ve never fed the Lorikeets before. Nor have I seen them so ravenous as at Brevard Zoo. Still, their excitement was infectious, and my wife and I couldn’t help but laugh as the birds scrambled around and over us, screeching at each other and slurping up the sweet liquid. Most flew off when the cups had been drained, but one or two remained behind, and licked the sides and bottoms of the cups, unwilling to leave even a drop behind.
This time, I didn’t try to pet the animals.
The next day, red marks remained where Lorikeet talons and beaks had dug into our hands. All signs of their affection faded after a few days, but the happy memories of feeding the animals remained.