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Potawatomi Zoo officially opens new giraffe conservation center

At 3 years old, Kellan is the youngest of the zoo's four male giraffes.
Potawatomi Zoo
At 3 years old, Kellan is the youngest of the zoo's four male giraffes.

Four male giraffes have joined the Potawatomi Zoo with the official opening of the Laidig Giraffe Conservation Center.

Kellan is the youngest giraffe at 3 years old, while Max, Seymour and Wyatt are all 6. Zoo executive director Josh Sisk said three came from zoos in Florida, and one from a zoo in the Carolinas.

“Being an accredited zoo, we don’t buy or sell any of the animals — they’re all part of breeding programs,” Sisk said. “So, these were a recommendation from the breeding group that manages giraffes.”

Sisk said the center is the largest capital project the zoo has ever undertaken — the organization raised over $4.6 million from donors, and construction started two-and-a-half years ago.

It has two-and-a-half acres of space for the giraffes made up of an outdoor exhibit with a feeding platform and a 10,000 square foot indoor facility and visitor center.

For now, Max, Kellan, Seymour and Wyatt will be inside their new building, but Sisk said the giraffes will move outside — and can be fed by visitors — once they are ready.

“Animal welfare is our top priority at the zoo, so the animals have the choice,” Sisk said. “We’ll be only one of the facilities in the region where you can feed the giraffes in the wintertime, even when you’re inside the barn.”

That will likely be during the summer after the weather warms up and the giraffes fully adjust to their new surroundings.

In the future, Sisk said the zoo hopes to also bring in a female and establish a breeding program.

“Getting the four boys allows our keepers to start working with them, getting to learn how to take care of giraffes,” Sisk said. “As an accredited zoo, our true mission is education and conservation.”

If you want to see the giraffes, the zoo opens for the season on Friday, April 1.

The Potawatomi Zoo is a financial supporter of WVPE.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.