Lion Country Safari recently welcomed the arrival of a 6-foot, 160-pound bundle of joy to the preserve.
Jioni the reticulated giraffe is turning 1 month old this weekend, but he’s already made an impression as a charismatic, outgoing little boy.
“He is a very curious giraffe,” said David Backus, the lead giraffe keeper at the preserve. “He is outgoing. He had no problems walking straight up to keepers. He was eating alfalfa out the back of our keepers’ trucks from day one.”
The baby was born Feb. 18 (after a 15-month gestation period) and was walking and nursing within an hour—his name is Swahili for “dusk,” the time it was in Kenya when he was born. Since then, he’s been hanging out with his mother, Ayanna, at the maternity pen to give them time to bond before being introduced to the rest of the herd. There, he’ll meet his siblings, half siblings, uncles and aunts. For now, he’s been playing with them through the fence that separates the maternity pen from the preserve.
Jioni is Ayanna’s sixth calf, so she knows exactly what she’s doing, Backus said. His father, Cupid, was named for a heart-shaped marking on his side and is popular with guests because of his friendly demeanor.
“He’s definitely got the outgoing personality of his dad,” the keeper said.
The staff at Lion Country Safari has been busy when it comes to the giraffe herd. Jioni’s half-sister, Kimberlina, was born two weeks before him. In September, a week before Hurricane Irma swept through Florida, another baby giraffe, Zuri, was born and unfazed by the storm. Later this month, another giraffe is expected to be born.
Lion Country Safari is famous for giving its guests the opportunity to drive through the preserve and interact with the animals. In about a month, the public will be able to see Jioni up close and personal when he leaves the pen—however, with him being so confident and outgoing, he may join the herd earlier.
“It’s always exciting when you have a new baby, it’s always fun for everyone,” Backus said.
Lion Country Safari, 2003 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee; 561/793-1084; lioncountrysafari.com