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Aerospace connected: Zoo’s new giraffe named ‘Rocket’

December 21, 2018

The female giraffe that was born Aug. 9 at the Gladys Porter Zoo will join the rest of her herd 30 days from now in the zoo’s outdoor viewing area, zoo officials said Wednesday as they announced the baby’s name and timetable for her debut.

In this year’s Zoofari fundraising event a bidder named Mary Muratore won the honor of naming the giraffe. She chose "Rocket" in honor of SpaceX and the aerospace activities coming to the area.

"My husband and I moved to the area to support the growing aerospace activities here in South Texas," she said. "I thought it would be a great idea for this giraffe to grow up along with the new launch pad."

SpaceX is building a launch pad along Boca Chica beach east of Brownsville. The site is expected to undergo space vehicle tests in 2019 and eventually host launches.

Between now and her debut on Jan. 17, Rocket will undergo indoor socialization with the seven other members of the GPZ reticulated giraffe herd, zoo director Pat Burchfield said.

"A lot of work has gone into rearing that baby," Burchfield said. "We’re in the process of socializing the baby with all members of the herd indoors so she becomes familiar with the sights and smells of the other giraffes."

Reticulated giraffes are an endangered species and move among American Zoological Association accredited zoos to manage them through a Species Survival Plan. The plan determines the most advantageous pairings, with the objective of having an assurance population of giraffes at the AZA zoos that will be viable 200 years into the future, Burchfield said.

"We’re a backstop for the wild," Burchfield said.

Several species have been introduced back into the wild as a result of captive breeding programs at GPZ and other AZA accredited zoos, he said.

These include the Arabian Oryx, black-footed ferret, Coahuilan box turtles and Philippine crocidiles, Burchfield said.

Gladys Porter Zoo is the largest conservation entity in South Texas, he added.

As of Wednesday it was T minus 30 to Rocket’s debut.

glong@brownsvilleherald.com

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