VIDEO: Caldwell's newest baby a head above

Published on Saturday, 30 August 2014 00:40 - Written by EMILY GUEVARA eguevara@tylerpaper.com

With a few visitors nearby, Knox the new baby giraffe at the Caldwell Zoo walked around his new home, sticking close by his mother’s side.

Knox, born Aug. 15, is only 2 weeks old, but already the size of a small adult. He’s about 5 1/2 feet tall and weighs 112 pounds.

Scotty Stainback, Caldwell Zoo’s curator of mammals, said the giraffe is developing as expected and his mother, Cricket, is doing a great job raising him, especially considering she’s a first time mom.

“She’s taking really good care of him,” he said, adding that she’s protective of him.

She’s known to stare down visitors and direct him to certain parts of the pen when necessary, he said.

Knox is the product of careful planning. Caldwell Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Reticulated Giraffe Species Survival Program.

This is a cooperative breeding program created to ensure the survival of species in need of conservation efforts, according to a zoo news release.

Through this program, participating institutions, which are all accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, will send animals to certain locations so they can breed with the mate that is genetically determined to be the best match. This helps avoid inbreeding, Stainback said.

For example, the last Caldwell Zoo baby giraffe, a male named Gus, lives at the Philadelphia Zoo and is father to a female giraffe.

Caldwell Zoo received its first giraffe in 1978 and since first housing reticulated giraffes, 26 babies have been born there.

Knox is the son of Cricket, his mother, and the late Ramses, his father.

For the first two weeks of life, Knox has lived with his mother in a private area sheltered from visitors’ eyes.

However, on Friday, Knox and his mother were moved to the inside of the giraffe building where visitors could see them for three hours.

The zoo will do the same thing today through Monday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is part of the process of getting Knox accustomed to his surroundings and the human visitors.

The next step is to introduce him to the herd of three females. Stainback said the females would not intentionally be mean or aggressive toward Knox, but because of their size they could hurt him if he got too close or tried to nurse.

“It’s a learning process for them,” Stainback said.

Once Knox and the females seem to be getting along well, zookeepers will move him to an outside pen area, where he can see the larger outdoor habitat, but not walk in it yet.

There, he will get his first look at the elephants, zebras, gazelles, ostrich and other animals that are his neighbors.

The final step is to let him run free in the giraffes’ outdoor habitat.

“It’s very exciting for us,” Stainback said of the new baby. “It’s a big deal. It’s something that we plan for years.”