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Hummer the giraffe gets up close and personal with guests at National Zoo and Aquarium's Jamala Wildlife Lodge

Since the Jamala Wildlife Lodge opened at the National Zoo and Aquarium in December guests have enjoyed sleeping with sharks, eating with lions and bathing with bears.

But one of the stars, 16-year-old giraffe Hummer, short for Humbekhali, has been reluctant to get up close and personal until now.

He was meant to be the star of the treehouse rooms when they opened in December, but it took zoo staff 100 days of careful coaxing to convince Hummer to let guests feed him from their balcony.

"Conditioning him to come into the new area proved to be quite difficult, but he did it in the end so we're very impressed and proud of him," ungulate keeper Amanda Hadley said.

"Giraffes are relatively food motivated but not completely… so it was just baby steps; getting him a step further each day was a huge success."

With supervision from a keeper, guests staying in the giraffe treehouses now have the opportunity to feed Hummer from the balcony before he is locked away overnight from 6.30pm for the safety of him and guests.


National Zoo and Aquarium owner Richard Tindale said the zoo was established without commercial considerations, but the Jamala lodge was set up to create cash flow to further develop its conservation and breeding programs.

"Over the years it became very obvious the closer we could get people to animals the more impact it had on people and what reaction they had to wildlife in general and conservation," he said.

"We wanted to get people as close to the animals as the animals feel comfortable with."

Chief Minister Andrew Barr hailed the lodge as a key tourist attraction during a tour of the enclosure on Thursday, where he fed Hummer carrots from the balcony.

"As an investment in tourism in Canberra it's an exciting and innovative initiative that sends a signal to other tourism operators that we can continue to innovate and raise the standards of the tourism offering in Canberra and that those investments will be rewarded with a really positive response," he said.

Australian Hotels Association ACT general manager Brad Watts said the "unique high-end" accommodation was helping drive visitation to Canberra and provided a much-needed boost to the challenged sector.

"There are also several other exciting, new accommodation properties in the ACT boosting the economy, including Hotel Kurrajong and The Avenue Hotel Canberra," he said.

"Several more hotels are expected to be opened soon, including Little National at Barton and the Vibe Airport hotel."

The zoo's newest giraffe Mzungu, who arrived last month, is yet to go on public display, but has settled in well to her new enclosure, Ms Hadley said.

Giraffes in captivity usually live to their mid-twenties but Ms Hadley said she was hopeful Hummer would live until 30.