By: Nia A.
Did you know that our very own Zoo Atlanta has a new addition? A brand new giraffe and her name is Lily. Zoo Atlanta allowed me the opportunity to ask the care provider questions about sweet, adorable Lily.
Did you also know that animals such as Lily have their own department called Hoof Stock? The caregiver Mr. JT Svoke told me everything there is to know about the four-legged wonder! I was more than excited to ask as many questions as possible because I had to know about her! Check out my question and answer session below. ENJOY!
Lime Green Giraffe: Tell us about yourself.
JT Syoke: My name is JT Svoke and I have been working here at Zoo Atlanta for about six years now. Originally, I worked with the Giant Pandas, as well as the other carnivores within the zoo before moving to the Hoof Stock department to become the Lead Keeper of the area earlier this year, in March. Also during my time here in Atlanta, I have completed my Master degree in Neurobiology and Behavior at Georgia State University. Before coming to Atlanta I was working at the Kansas City Zoo with a wide variety of species of mammals, birds and some reptiles. My undergraduate education was conducted at Northern Michigan University were I received a degree in Zoology.
LGG: How did you develop your interest for animals?
JS: My interest in animals developed when I was rather young. Instead of watching cartoons like other kids, I enjoyed watching nature programs and learning about animals. I remember two interactions with animals when I was younger that made me think that I was slightly different than other kids my age. In second grade we had a visitor that brought some reptiles into the classroom and I remember being the only kid that wanted to have the rather large boa constrictor placed on my shoulders. While in six grade, I remember that we got to get out of class one day and go see a variety of mammals and birds that were at the school that day, and I remember being fascinated by the three-toed sloth that was hanging from a stick.
LGG: How does Lily begin her day?
JS: Her morning is not much different than the other giraffe. By the time that we arrive to work in the morning she is already up and moving around. Typically, if she has access to an outdoor area overnight, she is outside watching us arrive. At night she only spends time with her mother, so sometimes you see her drinker milk from her mother.
LGG: How old is Lily today, October 2011? How much does she weigh?
JS: Currently, Lily is a little over 2 1/2 months old. She was born on the 22nd of July this year, and at one day old weighed 159 pounds. We do not have any current weights on her as she is not trained to go onto a scale platform and we do not go in with most of our animals because of safety reasons. I would estimate that she is probably around 250 pounds.
LGG: What are some of Lily's behaviors?
JS: Her behaviors are not much different than an adult giraffe. She quite often can be found hanging out with her older sister Zuri, or just sitting down in the middle of the exhibit resting her legs. If she gets hungry she heads to her mother to get some milk. Currently she is starting to eat more solid foods so she is in the very beginning stages of behavioral training, where right now we are getting her use to being around humans and our movements as well as allowing us to touch her neck area.
LGG: What does she eat and how much?
JS: At this moment she primarily is nursing from her mother a few times a day, though the sessions typically only last a maximum of a few minutes. She is starting to eat what we call browse which is just a branch from a tree or bush where they can eat the leaves off of. I have seen her eat Mulberry, Honeysuckle and Bamboo. At night she is also getting a couple of pounds of some specialized grain, which is designed for hoof stock species.
LGG: What is her "personality?”
JS: At this age she does not have an identifiable "personality", as she is still a little young. She does seem a little independent of her mother and more and exploring things without her mother around more and more, though she will not shift onto or off exhibit without her mother present. She also does like to hang out with her sister.
LGG: How does Lily get along with her mother? Is she independent?
JS: At her current age, Lily relies a great deal on her mother. If she were in the wild, her mother would be her protection from predators so it is natural for her not to stray too far from her some of the time. Her mother, Mona, is also the primary source of food. Even when they spend time apart, Mona will check on Lily to make sure that she is fine by nudging her with her head or licking her.
LGG: Is Lily adapting well to her habitat and the other Giraffes?
JS: Lily has been fine with her habitat as long as she can see her mother or has contact with her, and will move where asked as long as her mother goes as well. About one week after birth, Lily and Mona were introduced to our other female giraffes Glenda and Zuri, which overall was very successful and Glenda took to her right away and helped to protect her. Around three weeks of age she was introduced to her father. Overall I would say that she likes to be with other giraffes.
LGG: What are the long-term goals for Lily is she to remain at Zoo Atlanta in captivity or will she be released into the wild?
JS: At this time there are no set plans for Lily. She will always remain in captivity, as she is not raised in an environment suitable to be released into the wild. Typically giraffes are kept at the zoo where they were born until about one-and-a-half to two-years of age and then shipped to another institution, if they are going to be moved. At about two-years of age it becomes rather difficult to transport them as they are tall, and there are not many vehicles that can handle animals that big. So, we will have Lily at least for one more year but we could also have her for rest of her life.
LGG: What is your favorite part about being Lily's care provider?
JS: Probably the best thing about caring for baby animals is just watching them develop and hitting different milestones in their life. It is interesting to watch them develop and grow into an adult and developing the specific personality type, seeing if they are more like their mother or father.
Click here to see a video of Lily http://youtu.be/y72jTRDmGw8.
To learn even more about Lily, go to www.zooatlanta.com and click on press release.