'Hope' the giraffe born in New Orleans amid pandemic

The Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans welcomed a new resident, a baby giraffe named Hope.

Sue Ellen, a middle-aged giraffe at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, gave birth Monday, according to a Friday news release.

Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman said Hope was the perfect name for the calf, especially as New Orleans has been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“What name could be more fitting than 'Hope' in these challenging times?” Forman said. “Hope is what has sustained our community through seemingly insurmountable crises in the past and what we must hold onto as we continue on in the coming days and weeks. May we all take comfort in the reminder that, even in the darkest of days, life continues, undaunted.”

Species Survival Center curator Michelle Hatwood said the staff had known the calf was on the way for 15 months but said it can be tough to pinpoint a likely delivery date for giraffes.

The calf was born 6-feet (1.8-meters) tall, weighing in at 189 pounds (86 kilograms). 

Located on 1,200 acres of land west of downtown New Orleans, the center is now home to 13 giraffes, the release said. The new calf was the eighth giraffe born at the center as part of the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife conservation breeding partnership with San Diego Zoo Global.

The giraffes reside in a 46-acre forested area and spend most of their day foraging and looking for their favorite leaves to eat.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began in Louisiana, the Audubon Nature Institute has been forced to close its facilities to the public. It’s asking federal officials for assistance in providing funds to larger nonprofits like zoos and aquariums.