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Viral giraffe incident with toddler sparks discussion about animal safety

SIOUX FALLS, SD (Dakota News Now) – What started as a safari adventure for a Texas family over the weekend quickly turned into a scary moment when a giraffe picked up a toddler. The viral video has been viewed millions of times on various platforms.

We spoke to an employee at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls to find out exactly what happened and to learn more about giraffe behavior.

The incident occurred at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas.

“The food was right next to the toddler. Giraffes actually only have teeth on the bottom, so they still have a strong grip to pull leaves off the branches. I assume she also just grabbed the T-shirt and lifted it up to pull it away like she would with leaves,” said Joel Locke, head of animal care at the Great Plains Zoo.

The child was dropped immediately after the video ended and was unharmed.

Locke has worked with animals since 2004 and has been a zookeeper at the Great Plains Zoo for eight years. He says cases like this show how unpredictable animals are.

“Your own dog and cat can be unpredictable. Just keep an eye on them, especially if you have a small child,” Locke said.

Although watching viral videos like this one can be intimidating, the Great Plains Zoo wants to reassure guests that safety precautions are always taken.

“It is standard protocol when feeding giraffes that we always have a staff member here watching the animal and observing people feeding the giraffes. There is also always a barrier between us and the animal so there is no chance of anyone being with the animal at that time,” Locke said.

The Great Plains Zoo offers guests the opportunity to feed Olivia Dee the giraffe every day.

“She loves attention, she's out here laying and being shown off, which shows us that she's super calm and composed, so she's doing very well,” Locke said.

Even though Olivia Dee has a calm demeanor, it is important that the staff is always mindful of ensuring the safety of guests.

“I can't say something like this would never happen, because unexplained things happen all the time. We are doing our best to monitor the situation and make sure something like this doesn't happen,” Locke said.

Locke often found that in such situations the animal often has no bad intentions, but is either simply afraid or reaching for food that is nearby.