Baby giraffe named Jerrica

Tonjia Rolan

A frequent visitor to Hillcrest Park Zoo with her two children, Rebecca Holt jumped at the chance to enter the city’s contest to name a baby giraffe born in late January.

Her winning entry of Jerrica was announced Wednesday by zoo director Vince Romero.

Holt said the name came to her while she was lying in bed.

When she Googled it and discovered it meant “strong” and “beautiful” she knew it was the perfect name for the young giraffe, who had a rough start in life.

The giraffe’s father Jay died from a fall before Jerrica was born. After her birth, her mother Jael sent her flying across the pen with a kick. Zoo staff took Jerrica into protective custody and the giraffe has since been bottle fed.

“She had to be strong after being rejected by her mother and surviving being bottle fed,” said Holt, who sometimes goes to the zoo alone just to take pictures or walk through the park.

Zoo clerk Laura Shepler said Jerrica has grown almost 2 feet since birth and is doing great in her shelter, with an attached yard, where she exercises on warm days.

When weather permits, Shepler said a run will be built from Jael’s pen to Jerrica’s, allowing the two to begin the bonding process.

Shepler said Jerrica will not be available for public viewing until the weather is consistently over 60 degrees.

“She’s just as lovable as she can be,” said Shepler. “We can’t take any chances.”

A volunteer with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Holt has followed the tumultuous story of Jael the giraffe from its beginning.

“When I read about Jay dying, it was a really sad story,” Holt said. “And when the baby was born it was so exciting. I was tickled about it.”

Holt said it broke her heart when she read about Jael’s rejection of her newborn.

“It just touched me,” Holt said.

Shepler said the Jerrica was chosen from 147 entries that included many “J” names, such as Jay-jay, Jadan and Jaella.

“We were kind of leaning toward a “J” name anyway,” Shepler said. “Since her mom’s name is Jael and her dad’s is Jay it just seemed natural.”