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ABQ BioPark Zoo welcomes new baby giraffe

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First-time mother Niara towers over her newborn calf, Neelix, in the giraffe barn at the ABQ BioPark Zoo earlier this week. The calf was born at the zoo on Jan. 6. (Photo courtesy Greg Jackson, ABQ BioPark Zoo)

A baby male giraffe born earlier this month at the ABQ BioPark Zoo has an out-of-this-world name.

Neelix is named for a character in the television show “Star Trek: Voyager.” The character has spots that conjure up the markings of a reticulated giraffe.

Albuquerque’s Neelix was born Jan. 6, to 7-year-old first-time mother Niara. Both mother and calf are doing well, said primary giraffe keeper Kelsey Carrillo.

Staff at the zoo made sure Niara’s delivery was as safe as possible. They participated in a birth watch, provided heaters to keep her warm and filled an area in one of the giraffe barn stalls with a foot of sand “so we’d have a soft landing for the little guy,” she said. The speedy birth took about 30 minutes from the time Niara’s water broke.

Neelix’s father, Kumi, was born at the BioPark Zoo in 2015 and was recently transferred to the Binder Park Zoo in Michigan.

Because newborn giraffes are sensitive to the cold, Neelix will be kept in the giraffe barn, and will not have access to his outdoor habitat and public viewing until warmer weather arrives, Carrillo said.

With the addition of Neelix, seven reticulated giraffes reside in the herd at the ABQ BioPark Zoo: Jimbazi, Buck and Neelix, all males; and females June, Camilla, Malika and new mom Niara.

Giraffes are native to Africa, where there are nine subspecies throughout the continent living in environments ranging from dense forests to open plains, according to the African Wildlife Foundation website.

Baby giraffes of all species are generally 5-6 feet tall at birth and weigh 110-150 pounds. By comparison, a mature adult giraffe stands up to 19 feet tall from ground to horn and can weigh more than 4,200 pounds, while an adult female is a more diminutive 15 feet tall and 2,600 pounds, the AWF says.

In the wild, giraffes, who are herbivores, have an average lifespan of 10-15 years, and can live 20 years or longer in accredited zoos.

The global giraffe population has plummeted by up to 40 percent over the past 30 years, with about 68,300 mature individuals living in the wild according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The AWF estimates there are more than 96,000 giraffes in the wild, both mature and juvenile.

Giraffes are listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN’s Red List.

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Because baby giraffes are sensitive to the cold, zoo visitors will likely not see baby Neelix in his outdoor yard until the weather gets warmer. (Photo courtesy Greg Jackson, ABQ BioPark Zoo)

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