BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Christmas Day is usually pretty uneventful at Franklin Drive Thru Safari. The park is closed; a crew just has to stop by to feed and check out the animals. But this year, the staff got an unexpected surprise - a new baby giraffe.
"After we got done unwrapping presents, we knew we were going to be closed that day, but we had to come up to feed," said Chris Soles, animal caretaker for the park located on U.S. 79 in Franklin. "We were riding around, checking up on everybody, and lo and behold - Momma done had it outside and up and walking."
Now the park is holding out for fairer weather before fully unveiling the baby giraffe, named Natalii, a French name associated with babies born on Christmas.
Natalii stands 5-foot-6 and will grow to around 17 feet - the height of her parents, Bertha and Big John - in the next four years, Soles says. The lifespan for giraffes in captivity is around 25 years, Soles said.
For now though, she's still getting her bearings.
"She's kind of in that sluggish stage, where she wants to sleep a lot," Soles said.
Franklin Safari staff are waiting for better weather and stronger health before they let the giraffe roam.
"We have the barn open just a little bit so everyone can kind of see her," Soles said. "We'll give a few days before we let her outside. It's kind of muggy and nasty weather."
The 100-acre property is home to 100 different species. Soles said animals, including camels, zebras, monkeys and buffaloes, are regularly born at the park, but Natalii is the first giraffe born on the property.
With her, there are now five giraffes at the Franklin Safari.
"We always get excited about animals being born, but this one is really exciting," Soles said. "We've never had a baby giraffe born here before."