Proud new mothers Kathy and Beanpole this week announced the births of their two girls, both born early in the morning barely two weeks apart.
Each weighs about 150 pounds and stands six feet tall. The babies don't have names yet, but Shorty probably isn't going to be one of them.
The giraffes are residents of Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, the nonprofit wildlife conservation facility that breeds endangered and threatened animal species and educates visitors about some of the world's rarest and most interesting creatures.
The first baby arrived on Jan. 22 and the second one came on Feb. 8. They stayed in a heated barn for the first weeks of their lives to protect them from the cold weather.
This week visitors on spring break will be able to see the babies out roaming with their mothers, as well as other offspring of other species.
It's “very rare” to have two giraffe births so close together, said Billie Kinnard, the center's marketing director.
To celebrate the special occasion, Fossil Rim is holding a "Name the Baby Giraffes Contest.” It costs $5 per entry to suggest one name. Both baby giraffes will be named from the two winners' suggestions. The last day to enter is May 9.
Two prizes will be awarded. Each winner will receive an overnight stay for two at the Safari Foothills camp and a tour to the giraffe area with the animal keeper. For contest rules, click any of the baby giraffe icons on another new addition – the center's newly designed Web site, www.fossilrim.org.
Cassie Peterson, the giraffes' lead keeper, said the babies haven't done much so far.
"But it's interesting how different their personalities are," Peterson said in comments published in the Fossil Rim newsletter.
"Beanpole's calf has always been curious and bold — when I'm feeding her she'll some up and smell me and she's not afraid to wander away from her mother," Peterson said. "She's also a kicker. She loves to run around, often joined by Jurz and Shiner — two of our younger giraffe — and she loves kicking her front feet out and then stomping on the ground, showing the other giraffe how tough she is."
In contrast, Kathy's calf prefers to stay hidden a lot more, Peterson observed. She is quiet and still sticks close to her mother.
"She does run and play around occasionally, but in a more reserved manner," Peterson added.
Baby giraffes don't tend to play together, but they like to run around and kick.
"They are still nursing and will be for the next six months, but like all babies, they are exploring the world with their mouths," Peterson said. "They chew on the browse put out for the adults, nibble on grass and have even tried mud. I don't think they liked that!"
Kathy's baby is her fifth and Beanpole gave birth to her seventh offspring. Kathy was born at Fossil Rim in 1987, making her baby a Fossil Rim second-generation giraffe. Beanpole was born at the Hogle Zoo in Utah in 1987 before coming to the center in 1988. Forty-six baby giraffes have been born at the center since it began working with the species in 1984.
Reticulated giraffes, the tallest living land mammals, are native to Kenya. Females, known as cows, give birth to one calf. That can occur any time of the year. The gestation period for giraffes is 14-and-a-half to 15 months.
Giraffes give birth while standing, so the baby drops about six feet to the ground. That sounds like a bumpy welcome to the world, but since the baby is about six tall, its head and forefeet are near the ground when it is delivered.
A baby giraffe can grow four feet taller in the first year. The two new females likely will be 16 feet tall and weigh 1,540 to 2,600 when they are full grown. So go see them soon because these babies really grow up fast!
Fossil Rim manages over 50 species of wildlife, including cheetah, rhinos, wolves, zebra, and the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken. The center offers a nine-and-a-half mile Scenic Wildlife Drive, unique Safari Camp lodging, guided tours, camps, nature store and café to visitors. Call 254-897-2960 or visit the Web site for more information.