OPERATING on a giraffe’s tongue would ordinarily be a job for an experienced veterinary surgeon.
But when the “patient” is on open display in the National Museum of Scotland, a steady hand and a tub of glue should do the trick.
The planned procedure to reattach the lightweight resin prosthesis comes after vandals removed it earlier this month, leaving the poor animal stuffed without it.
This is the second time in two years that the giraffe’s tongue has been silenced, having also been torn out and replaced in 2012.
Museum bosses have revealed the tongue was snapped off by a mystery visitor and later turned up in another part of the popular museum.
It is thought the tongue-grabber “bottled” a planned theft, dumping it before they could be caught.
The 18ft-tall giraffe has a 18in-long tongue which used to project towards the public gallery – making it an enticing target for a prospective thief.
Visitors were aghast at the theft.
Amy Westby, 28, of the New Town, suggested that it may have been a prank, adding: “It sounds like a joke. It would be a brilliant beer trophy, much better than a traffic cone.”
Natalie Haining, 18, of Restalrig, branded the stunt “stupid”, and Patricia Posey, 65, of New Mexico, added: “I am outraged. This is a good museum for kids and this might mislead them. They could grow up thinking that a giraffe doesn’t have a tongue.
“I think they should call in Scotland Yard to investigate.”
The giraffe enjoys pride of place in the Animal World gallery beside a mega-sloth skeleton where its long tongue has been a talking point for children for the past three years. But now its disappearance is the talk of the steamie, with one man claiming staff had been frantically looking for it before it was finally found in the gallery.
A plastic panel was installed in 2012 to discourage people from reaching through the railings. This is the second time in recent weeks that the removal of an exhibit has raised a question mark over security.
Museum bosses were left red-faced last month after a thief was able to walk out unchallenged carrying two medieval oak panels.
At the time, a worker within the museum blamed cutbacks on the theft.
A source at the attraction said people in charge of the museum want the attraction to feel as welcoming and accessible as possible. “It’s a museum not a prison,” the insider said. “We don’t want people to feel intimidated coming in to a learning environment.”
Today, a spokeswoman for the museum confirmed the giraffe will be fixed. She said: “The giraffe’s tongue was prepared by our in-house taxidermist, who will reattach the it as soon as possible.”
Outside of London, the popular museum is one of the UK’s busiest attractions.
Specially designed to sort leaves from thorns
IN the wilds of Africa, giraffes use their 20in-long prehensile tongues and the roof of their mouths to feed on a range of different plants and shoots, most notably from Acacia species.
Africa’s Acacia species have developed defensive thorns, requiring giraffe to use their dextrous tongues to sort out the leaves from the thorns.
Fortunately, a giraffe’s tongue has thickened papillae and gloopy saliva which helps to protect it from the fierce barbs.
The colour of the tongue is best described as black, blue or purple with a pink base or back.
It is generally assumed that the front of the tongue has such dark pigmentation to protect it during its frequent exposure to the sun while the animal is eating.