In Lower Coast Algiers at Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center (FMASSC), life is anything but on hold in the current climate humankind is experiencing as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, April 6, 2020, the facility’s middle-aged giraffe, Sue Ellen, gave birth to her second calf– a beautiful female reticulated giraffe calf. Coming in at 6-foot-tall, which is standard newborn height in females giraffes, and weighing 189 pounds, which is a substantial weight for the newborns of the species, she is the most recent addition to the Audubon Nature Institute.
“Things can feel very overwhelming right now,’’ said Michelle Hatwood, curator of the Species Survival Center. “But life does go on, and we have essential staff coming to work, so our animals receive the best care every single day.’’
A giraffe’s gestation period can be between fourteen and sixteen months, so the due date for the giraffe calf’s likely delivery has been anyone’s guess. Curator Hatwood and her staff have been at the ready for some time to welcome the giraffe calf into the world.
The FMASSC’S Species Survival Plan, administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, ensures healthy, genetically diverse animal populations throughout its accredited facilities, of which Audubon Nature Institute is included. Accordingly, Sue Ellen and her new calf, named “Hope,” are part of this program.
Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman said of their newest miracle, “What name could be more fitting than ‘Hope” in these challenging times? Hope is what has sustained our community through seemingly insurmountable crises in the past and what we must hold onto as we continue on in the coming days and weeks. May we all take comfort in the reminder that, even in the darkest of days, life continues, undaunted.”
While the species occupied much of the African continent decades ago, giraffes unfortunately now face a number of serious threats to their survival. Such factors as habitat loss, poaching, human encroachment, and disease are among these threats. The Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center is now home to 13 giraffes, with the addition of Hope. She is the eighth giraffe born at the center in Lower Coast Algiers. The giraffes at FMASSC’s location have access to a sprawling 46 acres of forested landscape on which they can roam and forage for their favorite greenery.
Unfortunately, the Audubon Nature Institute has been forced to close its facilities to the public since the COVID-19 health crisis began in the state of Louisiana. They have been requesting federal officials for assistance with funds to larger nonprofits like zoos and aquariums. They are also asking supporters of their facilities, and animal lovers in general, to reach out to the White House and Congress to request assistance with securing funding for these types of facilities (zoos, aquariums, and museums) in upcoming legislation for economic assistance. The recent CARES Act was focused on supporting individuals and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the legislation does not provide support of any kind for zoos, aquariums and museums that employ more than 500 people, such as Audubon.
A press release from the FMASSC is available for additional information.
For more Louisiana related articles, click here.