The Philadelphia Zoo’s newest star is head and shoulders above the rest, and, well, she knows it.
Bea, a 15-month-old giraffe hailing from Knoxville, Tenn., made her grand debut outdoors Thursday, coyly posing for the cameras with her “herd mates,” 18-year-old Stella and 11-year-old Abigail, in the zoo’s African Plains exhibit.
After a more than 600-mile road trip from Knoxville, Bea arrived in Philadelphia on Nov. 20 and has spent the past weeks enjoying private life, settling in to her new home and socializing with Stella and Abigail, the zoo said in a news release.
On the day Bea moved to Philadelphia, around 20 animal care and facilities staff members were enlisted to help, opening and closing doors at the exact right time, assessing her stress levels and well-being, and providing treats for encouragement. Only stopping to refuel on the trek from Tennessee to Philly, drivers used remote cameras to check on Bea in her climate-controlled moving stall.
Though she already stands around 8 feet tall and weighs 300 pounds, Bea still has some growing to do as one of the tallest land mammals in the world. Female giraffes can reach up to 15 feet tall and weigh around 1,500 pounds, while male giraffes can grow to 18 feet tall and nearly 3,000 pounds.
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Those close to Bea say she is taking her new home and stardom in lengthy stride.
“I am happy to say the overall transition has been smooth,” said zoo curator Donna Evernham, attributing the ease of the move to Philly and assimilation with the new herd to “Bea’s calm demeanor.”
“We are very excited to have a young giraffe at the Philadelphia Zoo.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists giraffes as “vulnerable,” estimating there are fewer than 100,000 surviving in the wild. Facing poaching and habitat destruction, giraffe populations have decreased by more than 40% over the last 30 years, according to the IUCN.
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Bea is the Philadelphia Zoo’s newest giraffe addition since Gus, a 21-foot-tall male, left Philly for New Orleans on Nov. 5. He was selected to join a herd of eight female giraffes for breeding at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center as part of the Giraffe Species Survival Plan. His departure created space for Bea to arrive in Philly, the zoo said. (Because giraffes live in fission-fusion societies, meaning they naturally move among herds, the zoos expect smooth transitions, said Dana Lombardo, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Zoo.)
Beau, a young male giraffe born to Gus and Stella at the Philadelphia Zoo in June 2018, has also since left the city. In accordance with the Giraffe Species Survival program and breeding needs, Beau moved to the Cape May Zoo in fall 2019.
There, Lombardo said, Beau is “doing great” and living with his larger herd in New Jersey.