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Zoo's new arrival: Giraffe, sister to one that died a few years ago

Published October 4, 2012 3:19 pm

Hogle • Ten days after birth, gangly gal meets the media.
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She doesn't have a name yet, but everything else seems to be going well for a baby giraffe introduced Wednesday at Utah's Hogle Zoo.

That's a source of consolation for the zoo's staff, knowing the gangly girl's older brother died 2½ years ago at the age of eight months, "failure to thrive" listed as the cause of death.

"With that in the back of everyone's minds, the staff has been monitoring her, taking blood samples, staying right on top of the situation and marking some of the milestones," said Hogle Zoo spokeswoman Erica Hansen. "She's really doing well."

The giraffe was born Sept. 23 at 1:18 p.m., the second calf of mother Kipenzi and father Riley.

"It's very exciting to have any birth here, but especially giraffes," said animal care supervisor Jane Larson. "They're such large animals. It's so fascinating to see this long-legged creature come out of the giraffe's womb and then they have such a long drop [almost 4 feet]."

Dad was gone for the delivery, shipped off earlier to the Oregon Zoo in Portland because of space constraints at Hogle Zoo while construction is under way on the African Savanna exhibit, scheduled to open in the spring of 2014.

But mom was quite attentive to her baby's needs, Hansen said, and true to natural instincts, "within an hour this little gal was walking and nursing. They have to be able to get up and move quickly in the wild because young animals are so susceptible to being preyed upon."

This is Hogle Zoo's 16th successful giraffe birth since it started displaying giraffes in 1969. To help this young giraffe to avoid her brother's fate, zoo staff allowed mother and daughter to bond slowly over the past week inside of the giraffe barn.

"[Kipenzi] sweetly cleans the baby from time to time," Hansen noted.

The baby giraffe was exposed to the outside world for the first time Tuesday, then spent a little more time outdoors Wednesday and she'll be on public display from now on.

"She's been very curious," Hansen said of the youngster. "She's interested in what the keepers are doing, and when the maintenance team came over to fix a mechanical issue with the door, she walked up to see what's happening."

Her musical tastes also apparently favor country. The keepers play a variety of music around the clock in the giraffe barn, the zoo spokeswoman said, and the giraffe seems to pay particular attention each time a country tune comes on.

Now the goal is to get the baby giraffe eating more solids and to let her get to know the grounds so she won't be spooked by crowds coming to see her this fall.

There's also the matter of getting to know Hogle Zoo's other two female giraffes — "her aunties for the lack of a better term," Hansen said.


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