March 26, 2013 at 9:30 AM ET
A rare baby giraffe born at the Leo Zoological Conservation Center on Friday is in great health and has plenty of support, but she still needs one thing – a name.
The conservation center in Greenwich, Conn., is appealing to the public to go on its website to help give a name to the adorable animal, who already stands 6 feet tall, about one-third of her eventual mature height of around 18 feet. The Rothschild giraffe, a rare variety that is endangered, has generated attention that Leo Zoological Conservation center founder and director Marcella Leone hopes can serve a wider purpose.
“This is actually huge for our new conservation center, and no doubt this is a really important baby and birth, but the real purpose for this little animal is that all the attention that we’re bringing to this today is that we have to save their wild places,’’ Leone said on TODAY Tuesday. “Do you know that an animal or plant species goes extinct every 20 minutes on our planet?”
The giraffe’s 6-year-old mother, “Petal,” gave birth to her on Friday, which was recorded and posted on the conservation center’s website. The new arrival became part of a herd of five giraffes that are usually only found in Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.
“She’s just having a little rest by mama now,’’ Leone said. “She’s nursing and getting to meet the rest of the herd, and she’ll be out in our indoor paddock in about a week.”
The baby’s health and progress have been robust in the early going. She is one of only about 670 Rothschild giraffes left in the world. The subspecies is named for Lord Walter Rothschild, a zoologist who studied the animals in the late 1800s.
“Within 20 minutes, this baby was standing and nursing,’’ Leone said. “This is a very strong baby. Our vets were amazed at her first checkup. She almost looked like a 2-week-old baby, but any new birth is so fragile, so our zookeepers are monitoring her vitals very carefully, and she’s doing great.’’
All that’s left is for her to get a name. The Leo Zoological Conservation center will start sifting through suggestions on Friday and looks to have a name picked out by next week.
The TODAY anchors did their part to be helpful by making a few suggestions, including “Cujo’’ from Matt Lauer, “Muffy’’ (because she’s from Connecticut) from Al Roker, and “ZZ” (because she’s got legs like the ZZ Top song) from Tamron Hall.