One of Mendon's newest residents was 6 feet tall and 150 pounds at birth. Meet Dolly.

Cesareo Contreras
MetroWest Daily News

MENDON - By nature, giraffes are an inquisitive bunch.

But there is something special about Dolly, the newest member of the Southwick's Zoo family, according to Betsey Brewer, executive director of the 200-acre park with more than 850 animals representing 150 species from around the world.

"All the giraffes are curious, but she's extra curious," Brewer said while describing the 3-week-old calf. 

What is the height of a baby giraffe? 

Dolly is the largest female reticulated giraffe that has ever been born at the zoo, coming in at 6 feet tall and 150 pounds at birth, according to Brewer. 

Dolly's mom, Molly, is what the zoo would consider a petite giraffe. She was only 5 feet tall and weighed 80 pounds when she was born, so it's interesting that her calf came out so big, Brewer said. 

"My grandson, who is 5, kept saying to me, 'How did that baby fit in that mama's belly? How did it fit in there?' We're all saying the same thing." Brewer said.  

Dolly has been spending her first weeks inside her own quarters in the zoo's giraffe barn. She sleeps most of the day but she does get walked and fed a special baby formula three times a day. It's estimated she will be drinking formula for the next six months. 

Southwick's Zoo in Mendon has welcomed a new addition: Baby giraffe “Dolly” rests in her enclosure on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. Dolly, who was born about three weeks ago, is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs about 150 pounds.

In about two weeks, she will be introduced to the rest of herd.

How do giraffes give birth?

Typically, female giraffes are pregnant for 13 months. They give birth standing up. It took about five hours for Molly to give birth to Dolly, Brewer said. 

It's essential that Dolly gets the proper nutrients needed in the first weeks after birth, she said. 

Dolly, Southwick's Zoo newest giraffe, has been drinking a special baby giraffe formula since she was born two weeks ago.

"When a baby giraffe is born, they don't have the immune system like a human baby has, where the antibodies pass from the placenta to the newborn. They get all their immunity from their mother's colostrum and milk," Brewer said. Colostrum is the first milk produced by the mother's mammary glands and has antibodies essential for the baby giraffe. 

Molly needed help feeding her baby

Dolly's mother wasn't producing enough milk, so the zoo's vet gave her cow colostrum sourced from a local farm. 

They say both the mother and calf are healthy and doing well. 

Two curious giraffes look at visitors over a fence at Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon, on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021.

The last time a baby giraffe was born at the zoo was in January 2020. The calf was named Pandora and still lives at the zoo with her mother. 

Reticulated giraffes are herbivores. They are an endangered species and are native to the Horn of Africa including the grasslands of Somalia, southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The tallest animals on Earth, reticulated giraffes can grow up to 18 feet tall.  

Cesareo Contreras can be reached at 508-626-3957 or Follow him on Twitter @cesareo_r.