There’s a new baby at Lion Country Safari, and she’s already about the average height and weight of an adult human.
The new baby giraffe was born Aug. 31. She currently doesn’t have a name — Lion Country employees are choosing between submitted suggestions — but she’s already unique. She’s Pammella’s eighth child, standing tall with brown spots.
The baby giraffe weighed 150 pounds at birth. At a week old, she’s steadily gaining weight and is somewhere around five and a half feet tall.
Primary Giraffe Keeper Kimberly Good, who has been with Lion Country for about six years, is thrilled with her newest charge. There are now 17 giraffes in the tower, the name for a herd of giraffe.
“She was very squiggly. We had a time holding on to her,” Good said. “She had a lot of energy. It went very well, and mom was very tolerant of keepers and hospital staff having hands on her. We put them back together as quickly as possible in order not to stress anybody out, and then she pretty much slept for the next couple of days.”
Now, as the baby checks out her surroundings in the maternity pen, she runs, hops, explores, nurses on Pammella and checks out other giraffe that stick their faces over the fence.
“They’re all checking her out and smelling her,” Good said.
Taking care of the tower is something special for Good, who has always loved giraffe. In fact, they were always a favorite animal for her mother and grandmother, as well. “I was surrounded by their passion for them, and always had something in my heart that I felt a connection with,” Good said. “My goal when I first started working here was ultimately to work with giraffe, and here I am.”
Good feels a close connection with Pammella.
“My mother’s name was Pamela, so I’m super fond of her in so many ways. She’s conservative and reserved and beautiful,” Good said. “Also, with her bloodline, she is true Rothschild Giraffe.”
Rothschild is a subspecies that is one of the most endangered of the distinct populations of giraffe. It is also known as the Ugandan or Baringo Giraffe, and is one of the tallest giraffe species.
Their markings, Good said, let you know they are Rothschild Giraffe. The markings stop at the top of their kneecaps.
Pammella’s sister, Alice, the oldest giraffe in the Lion Country tower, is also a Rothschild Giraffe.
The baby’s father is Cupid. Cupid celebrated his 12th birthday on Valentine’s Day; it really is his birthday. He is the breeder bull and was given the name Cupid because of the heart-shaped spots that can be found on his body, in particular, one on the right side of his neck.
Cupid was hand-raised, is playful, and often comes to the giraffe feeding exhibit at Lion Country Safari, where visitors are able to feed him fresh lettuce.
Pammella carried the baby for the standard 15 months that giraffe carry their young.
Though the baby might look a little funny now, with her ossicones flat and squished in — those are the things on their heads that look like horns — they’ll straighten out and pop up as she gets a bit older.
The tower at Lion Country is well-fed, ingesting approximately 75 to 80 pounds of vegetation a day, per giraffe. They’re herbivores and enjoy eating fruits and leaves.
Males average somewhere between 18 and 19 feet tall, weighing as much as 3,500 pounds. Female giraffe are smaller, about 15 to 16 feet tall, weighing anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 pounds. Pammella is about 1,900 pounds, 16 and a half feet tall, and 16 years old.
It’s a common misconception that older giraffe have darker spots; the colorings actually vary by type of giraffe and have nothing to do with age.
Though the new calf is adorable, and receiving quite a bit of attention, her birth is more than just another birth. The giraffe species is considered critically endangered.
“We really strive to bring this focus and attention to the public so they can have a better understanding and respect,” Good said.
Giraffe numbers are dwindling due to deforestation, and conservation is the safest route to saving them.
“I feel fortunate that we are able to provide them with close to their natural habitat, enough room to move around, and have a nice large herd as a family like they’re supposed to have as a social structure,” Good said.
The Giraffe Conservation Foundation, based in Africa, has been working to get a population count and study the tall, gentle creatures.
“They’ve come to the conclusion that within the last two decades, their population decreased by 40 percent. They have worked to go ahead and raise awareness that giraffe are going through a silent extinction,” Lead Trainer Kimberlee Wuenstel said. “Most people do know giraffe are iconic, they know what they look like, they’re easily recognizable, and we kind of take for granted that they’re always going to be here. We’re working in order to really raise awareness that they’re going through this silent extinction and try to help bring funds and attention to their cause.”
The foundation studies the species and helps locate them to places in Africa where they traditionally lived but no longer do, Wuenstel said.
Four of the giraffe at Lion Country paint artwork, and half of the sale of each painting is donated to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Customers who purchase the artwork receive a unique keepsake and are able to help in the conservation of giraffe.
Giraffe are going extinct in Africa due to a loss of habitat, population increases, deforestation and habitat fragmentation, Wuenstel said, as well as poaching and illegal hunting. Giraffe are even killed for something as simple as the hair on their tails, which is used for making fly swatters.
“Her birth is very important,” Wuenstel said of Lion Country’s newest addition.
To learn more about Lion Country Safari’s giraffe tower, and the other animals there, call (561) 793-1084 or visit www.lioncountrysafari.com.