The baby giraffe a few minutes after birth (Contributed/David Bright)
After months of anticipation for Limestone residents and Bright’s Zoo patrons, three words may bring about a sense of both relief and excitement — it’s a boy.
On Thursday morning, Valerie, a 6-year-old reticulated giraffe, gave birth to a healthy baby calf inside her pen at the zoo, located at 3425 U.S. Highway 11E.
Zoo Director David Bright said Valerie’s labor began around 9:40 Thursday morning and lasted more than two hours before the baby was on the ground.
“It was about 11:45 when the baby was completely on the ground,” Bright said. “We were hiding, trying to get a picture where we could.”
After the baby hit the ground, however, Bright said he and Valerie had yet to hit it off, which he attributed to her being a first-time mother.
“Right now, mom is freaked out by this thing following her around,” he said. “That’s a long process to go through and it’s all new to her. And I’m sure she’s still in pain.”
To help Valerie and her calf bond, both of them have been closed away in a barn, which will keep them free from human stares and sounds. Addtionally, that section of the zoo has been closed to the public.
Valerie and her calf’s relationship will dictate the next course of action for Bright and his staff. If the two bond quickly, and the calf nurses from her, then staff involvement will be limited and the two will return to the public soon.
“The biggest hurdle is going to be seeing that baby nurse for the first time and mom being OK with it,” Bright said. “If we see the baby nurse (Thursday), (today) we’ll move mom and baby out into the guest pen area, right out in front of the barn.”
If the baby and Valerie don’t make it to that stage of the relationship, however, Bright said he and his staff are prepared to tend to the calf themselves.
“If it doesn’t nurse, we’ll go in and start a bottle-feeding process (Thursday) evening,” Bright said.
Whether or not the baby and mother form a relationship, Bright said he and his staff were also prepared to make the zoo’s new addition part of the family.
In an interview with the Press on Tuesday, Bright said that if the baby was a boy, Bright would try to find another home for it within the first two years of its life. The zoo already has a male giraffe in its family and, when the baby came of age, Bright was worried the two would fight over who would be the “big bull” of the herd.
After the baby’s birth, however, Bright said he and his staff have reconsidered that notion a few times.
“We’ve changed our mind on that 100 times,” he said. “What we may decide to do is come in and build a new area. We can keep him until he’s 3 with the other male and not have to worry; once he hits that 3-year mark, we’ll have to be complete with the plan.”
While Bright and his staff know what to do to keep the new arrival healthy and happy, there is one area on which they are still undecided — the name.
“Olaf is the name we thought of,” he said. “But a couple of the keepers thought we could do a contest.”
The contest, which will be conducted on the zoo’s Facebook page, will award two free tickets to the zoo and a giraffe T-shirt for the best baby name. Anyone wanting to make a submission can do so at facebook.com/BrightsZoo.
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Valerie the giraffe has given birth to a boy at Bright's Zoo in Limestone.
Zoo Director David Bright reports the following:
"We currently have that whole section of the zoo closed off to public and most of our staff. With Valerie being a first time mom we want to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. Tomorrow we hope to have the entire zoo back open to the public.
"Valerie is still nervous and we expect it will take her some time to adjust to being a mom. We are prepared in the event Valerie does not take care of the baby. In the event she does not take care of it, keepers will come in and begin to bottle raise the baby but we will leave mom and baby together during this process hoping that Valerie will catch on quickly."
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