By Riley Manning
TUPELO – The Tupelo Buffalo Park was graced with a newborn giraffe Wednesday just after 7 p.m.
As is typical of giraffes, the baby was born already six feet tall, and appears healthy and fit, according to the Buffalo Park’s Sheila Franklin.
“When they’re born they’re wrapped in a ball and as soon as it hits the ground it just springs open,” she said. “When we left on Wednesday, it was laying down, but yesterday and today it’s been running and playing around the park.”
The 115-pound newborn is the child of Buffalo Park giraffes Patches, the 16-foot-tall mother, and Tall Boy, who stands at 22 feet.
“Patches is a real protective mother,” said Buffalo Park owner Dan Franklin. “She knows me by now, but is cautious with strangers, especially with that baby.”
He said adult giraffes can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour, and if they can’t outrun threats in the wild, they can kick their powerful legs in any direction. In their native Africa, it is not uncommon for giraffes to fight off and occasionally kill lions. In the wild, he said, giraffes face about a 67 percent mortality rate, but 40 percent of that threat is surviving birth.
“Giraffe mothers give birth standing up, so it’s a ways to fall, but the real danger is in the membrane that coats the animal,” Dan Franklin said. “If the mother doesn’t lick that membrane off around the baby’s nose first, it’ll suffocate before she gets to it. Birth is the hurdle, the tough thing. It makes you nervous.”
Sheila Franklin said the park would keep the giraffe for six months, allowing it to be nurtured by its mother, before selling it to another wildlife facility or zoo.
The last giraffe born at the park, also the offspring of Tall Boy and Patches, was in late 2012, and was sold to a zoo in Ohio.
The park is uncertain of the sex of the animal, but is taking suggestions for both male and female names. When the gender is discovered, the park will assign the most popular name for that gender.