The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips

By Gerald E. McLeod, July 4, 2014, Columns

Buddy the giraffe is special guy. One half of a set of twins born at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch outside of New Braunfels, he beat the odds by surviving to his first birthday last May.

Standing somewhere north of a dozen feet tall and growing, Buddy's natural curiosity overcomes his innate apprehension of humans. He can even be insistent for a neck rub once his defenses have been bridged. Buddy is gregarious and sweet in a goofy, giraffe way.

Born about an hour after his sister, Buddy had mother-son issues early on. The first time they met, she pushed him away. It was a natural reaction for a mother who could support only one offspring at a time in the wild.

The mother was nurturing, as long as there was a fence between them, says Tiffany Soechting, the animal care specialist who hand-raised Buddy.

In the wild, Buddy probably wouldn't have survived. Buddy and Wasswa are the only twin giraffes in the U.S., and one of only nine sets to have survived in zoos worldwide. In the wild, it is even rarer as the reticulated giraffe population shrinks below 5,000.

Natural Bridge Caverns is between New Braunfels and San Antonio off I-35. The 450-acre drive-through park has more than 500 animals to see and feed, including eight other giraffes. Housed near the park's entrance, the twins raised the number of giraffe births at the park to 20.

1,196th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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