Greenwich goes wild over new giraffe

A newborn giraffe, seen here underneath her mother,  is already the toast of Greenwich and a contest is under way to name her.

A newborn giraffe, seen here underneath her mother, is already the toast of Greenwich and a contest is under way to name her.

The birth of a healthy baby girl in the wee hours last Friday morning may have marked the rarest addition to the town the community has ever seen.

Why? Well, this was no mere new human baby at Greenwich Hospital. Instead the newborn is a Rothschild giraffe, an endangered species that has fewer than 670 members left in the wild, and its arrival is already spreading excitement around town.

The calf was born to six-year-old Petal, who gave birth at 9:04 a.m. after a relatively short labor at the Lionshare Educational Organization (LEO) Zoological Conservation Center on Taconic Road. Since giving birth, Petal has bonded well with her baby, immediately nurturing her and watching her closely, according to LEO. Within 30 minutes of her birth, which was eagerly watched by the conservation center’s herd of giraffe, the calf was standing and nursing.

According to Marcella Leone, founder and director of the center, the giraffe, who could grow to 18 feet tall, is curious and began approaching humans early on in its first days of life. Once it’s old enough, the giraffe will be able to mingle with the giraffe herd, and according to published reports, two more in the herd are pregnant.

Her birth marks a major milestone for the low-impact conservation center. The calf is the first giraffe born at the facility and just may be the first in Connecticut history. The species, found in Africa, is classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List, and fewer than 670 remain in their indigenous environment of Kenya and Uganda.

Now the question left to be answered is what to call the new arrival. Ms. Leone has said that a contest to name the giraffe has been set up online at People entering will have the opportunity to guess the actual day and time of the birth as well, and the winner will have the chance to visit the newborn. The time frame has already been narrowed, thanks to the center’s revelation it took place early in the day last Friday, March 22.

The LEO Zoological Conservation Center is a nonprofit, accredited conservation center and offsite breeding facility in Greenwich that provides a refuge for rare, threatened and endangered wildlife and conducts conservation-based education programs. The organization is no stranger to newborns and is expecting more giraffe, tapir, kangaroo, and primate births this spring.

For more information, including how to arrange a visit to the center and videos of the newborn giraffe with her mother, visit


The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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