Plump­ton Park Zoo moves gi­raffe into new habi­tat

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JANE BELLMYER

— Jim­mie the gi­raffe had to be coaxed, ca­joled and bribed to get him into his new home at Plump­ton Park Zoo.

The 21-year-old retic­u­lated gi­raffe was moved Sun­day morn­ing from the barn he has called home al­most since he ar­rived at the zoo in 1996 to the new Gi­raffe Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter.

Un­til the gi­raffe is ac­cli­mated to his new sur­round­ings, he won’t be in pub­lic view at the zoo.

“We don’t want him to have any other dis­trac­tions while he’s get­ting used to his new home,” said Nick La­co­vara who, with his wife, Ch­eryl, took over the zoo on Tele­graph Road near Ris­ing Sun in 2010.

A team of staff, vol­un­teers and vet­eri­nar­i­ans of­fered Jim­mie fresh green boughs of

RIS­ING SUN

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com bam­boo and buck­ets of gi­raffe chow to get him to move along a se­cured path to the cen­ter. To keep him from get­ting back to the old barn, a blue tarp blocked his path. It took less than two hours to make the ac­tual move.

While he gets ac­cli­mated, the La­co­varas and zoo staff keep an eye on him via closed cir­cuit cam­eras.

Jim­mie is eat­ing and drink­ing well and check­ing out the new digs, which is six times larger than his old en­clo­sure. It also has win­dows, which he did not have un­til now.

“He’s al­ready dis­cov­ered he likes look­ing out the win­dow,” Ch­eryl said. “And he’s in­spect­ing ev­ery de­tail of the en­clo­sure.”

The $500,000 cen­ter was paid for through grants and do­na­tions, in­clud­ing a gi­raffe feed­ing sta­tion. Nick La­co­vara said Jim­mie raised $49,000 for his own cause through the feed­ing sta­tion in which zoo vis­i­tors paid to of­fer the an­i­mal leafy branches.

Other money came from var­i­ous fundrais­ers held by the zoo and the com­mu­nity in­clud­ing car washes, yard sales, a $100,000 grant from the Maryland Gen­eral Assem­bly, lo­cal im­pact grants from Ce­cil County’s share of pro­ceeds from Hol­ly­wood Casino and $20,000 from a Chase Com­mu­nity Giv­ing cam­paign.

The La­co­varas hope this won’t be Jim­mie’s bach­e­lor pad for long. Fundrais­ing has be­gun to get a fe­male gi­raffe.

With the tem­per­a­ture hov­er­ing in the mid to up­per 40s, Jim­mie’s move be­gan be­fore noon Sun­day.

“It went un­usu­ally smooth,” Ch­eryl said Thurs­day, but added get­ting Jim­mie to go into the new build­ing proved to be the big­ger chal­lenge.

Ch­eryl said it needed to be a cer­tain tem­per­a­ture for the an­i­mal to be out­doors. By this time of year, Jim­mie typ­i­cally spends more time in­side than out.

That’s where the new cen­ter will come in handy. Zoo vis­i­tors will have a raised plat­form to see Jim­mie re­gard­less of the weather. The cen­ter also would be open for class­room op­por­tu­ni­ties and pub­lic and pri­vate gath­er­ings. Another part of the build­ing adds a per­ma­nent food prep sta­tion for zookeep­ers to store fresh and frozen food. The com­mer­cial set­ting of­fers large ta­bles and walk-in re­frig­er­a­tors and freez­ers.

But most im­por­tantly, Nick said the cen­ter was de­signed ex­plic­itly for gi­raffes with ra­di­ant heat in the floor.

“It’s also eas­ier to main­tain and eas­ier to keep it clean,” he added.

A rib­bon cut­ting is be­ing planned when Jim­mie is ready, Ch­eryl said.

PHO­TOS BY JANE BELLMYER

Jim­mie takes his first steps into the new, larger en­clo­sure built for him at Plump­ton Park Zoo near Ris­ing Sun. The en­clo­sure is six times larger with ra­di­ant heat in the barn and win­dows.

Danielle Co­ri­ano, Plump­ton Park Zoo’s zookeeper, of­fers Jim­mie some food to en­cour­age the gi­raffe to move to­ward his new en­clo­sure. The move took place Sun­day.

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