Waiouru kids leave giraffe stop-off with tall tales
Waiting on the side of the road in icy conditions for more than an hour isn't most people's idea of a fun family outing -- but when the closest zoo is more than four hours' drive away and you have the chance to see a giraffe in the flesh, you make an exception.
Despite the small central North Island town of Waiouru expecting snow, a handful of locals braved the dark and cold on Monday night to meet Zuri, a 1-year-old giraffe halfway through its 12-hour trip from Auckland Zoo to Wellington Zoo.
Marama Stewart took her son and joined three or four other families roadside to welcome Zuri into their neighbourhood -- and she says for the children there it was well worth the wait.
"They were just amazed -- they were very excited, but had to be quiet so they didn't upset the giraffe," she explained.
"I think a couple of the mums were more excited than some of the kids."
Zuri has been travelling from Auckland in a specially constructed, four-metre high crate, and is on track to join her grandmother and aunt at Wellington Zoo by the end of the night.
Her trip's been meticulously planned so she doesn't strike bridges or buildings, with Auckland Zoo Pridelands team leader Nat Sullivan there for support along the way.
The quick break at Waiouru marks the rough halfway point on Zuri's journey, and Ms Stewart says the children treasured the time they got to spend with her.
"The kids got to stand on top of the trailer and got to talk to the lovely zookeeper. It was great -- they loved it," she said.
Zuri has not been sedated, but a vet will be with her for her entire epic journey.