Mesi and Punk, two of the giraffes at the Abilene Zoo, are standing just a little bit taller as they are on the brink of becoming parents for the first time.
Punk, the female, could deliver a 130-pound, 6-foot-tall baby at any moment. After a 15-month gestation period, that moment probably can't arrive soon enough for Punk. Sharing her anxious moments is Stephanie Carle, the zoo's veterinarian.
"I am not a patient person," Carle said. "I am ready."
Probably not half as ready as 16-year-old Punk, who arrived at the Abilene Zoo in 2003 from the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Mesi, the proud papa, came to Abilene in 2014 from the Little Rock Zoo.
Carle and other staff members were keeping an eye on Punk on Tuesday to see whether she was getting close to birthing time. Giraffes traditionally stop eating about 24 hours before the birth process begins, Carle said. As of Tuesday afternoon, Punk was showing no signs of slowing down at the feeding deck.
This will be the first time for Carle to observe the birth of a giraffe, although she is trained in what to do if her assistance is required. Normally, giraffes, like other animals in the wild, do all the work themselves. The mother stands for the delivery, dropping the calf about 6 feet to the ground.
Zoo staff will be ready with supplies such as antibiotics and formula in case Punk decides not to nurture her newborn. Otherwise, the staff just will be observers.
"They usually don't need any help," Carle said. "We're hopeful."
The zoo is staffed 24 hours a day, and Carle will be on call if needed. For now, everyone is staying away from Punk, giving her space.
"We want her to be as stress-free as possible," Carle said.
The new giraffe exhibit, which opened in the spring, includes an area in back that is padded with sand in anticipation of the delivery. But there is no guarantee the birth will happen in that area. Punk will decide where that happens, Carle said. She might be in front of a camera in the exhibit when the time comes. If that happens, the birth can be seen on the zoo's giraffe cam live feed at www.abilenezoo.org.
Once the calf is born, it will not be touched by staff for at least 24 hours unless a problem develops. A day or two after the birth, the calf will get a medical exam. Punk will not get a hands-on exam, Carle said, but will be observed for problems.
Mesi won't be allowed near the newborn for a while, primarily because of his size and to allow Punk to bond with her new offspring.
It's impossible to say how long it will be before the family will be on display for the public — other than a possible sighting on the giraffe cam.
"It's all going to depend on her attitude," Carle said, "and what Punk wants."
GIRAFFE WATCH - Punk, a giraffe at the Abilene Zoo, is expected to give birth any moment. If Mom happens to be at the right place when that process begins, the birth will be available for viewing on the zoo’s giraffe cam live feed at abilenezoo.org. Stephanie Carle, the zoo’s veterinarian, said an area padded with sand has been set up at the back of the giraffe display for the birth, but no one knows where Punk will decide to give birth.