By Lauren Wanko
A six-foot tall baby — a stretch of the imagination? Not if you’re talking about giraffes.
“They seem prehistoric almost, kind of like you’re looking back in time,” said Kristin Siebeneicher, communication director at Six Flags Great Adventure.
Xena, Eddie and Charly are the newest baby giraffes at Six Flags Great Adventure. The youngest was just born in January.
How are they named?
“Whoever finds the baby first, that’s who gets to name them,” said Jason Holloway, safari supervisor at Six Flags Great Adventure. “The employees.”
A mom carries her baby for 14 to 15 months, says Holloway. The majestic mammals give birth standing up, so the baby plops five or six feet to the ground. Quite an entrance into the world.
“[They labor] anywhere from an hour to three hours and once they land, they are up in about an hour and are pretty mobile,” Holloway said.
Holloway says initially the moms are protective of their babies and they often stand in front of them or above them if they sense any kind of danger. In the wild they’d be especially cautious if they spotted lions or leopards, but here at Six Flags the giraffes grew up with their caretakers so they’re really comfortable around humans.
The world’s tallest animal can get pretty tall, says Holloway.
“Giraffes come from Africa. Males can reach 18 to 20 feet in height,” he said.
And they can weigh more than 2,000 pounds. Safari staffers don’t have trouble remembering who’s who here because of the giraffe’s distinct coat.
“Each giraffe has their own pattern. Some are darker, some are lighter, some have bigger spots, smaller spots,” Holloway said.
The animals use their famous long neck to reach their favorite trees.
“They have 18-inch long tongues which they use to get to the top of the acacia trees to get all the branches and fruits that they like,” Holloway said.
At the theme park, these giraffes eat hay and grain throughout the day and snack on apples and carrots, something Georgia can’t seem to get enough of. The babies nurse for the first six months of life and although their dad doesn’t embrace fatherhood — he’s off in search of the next mate — all of the moms pitch in when it comes to the kids.
“They do have nannies and aunts that help them. They’ll nurse from each other occasionally. If a mom needs to go drink, she’ll nurse from an aunt just for a little bit and they look out for each other’s baby,” Holloway said.
Visitors can see these babies in person starting April 1.