Rare Baby Giraffe Born in Connecticut Named After Newtown Victims

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A rare baby Rothschild giraffe born at a Connecticut sanctuary in March has been named Sandy Hope in memory of the Newtown shooting victims. The giraffe was the first born at the Leo Zoological Conservation Center and possibly the first giraffe born in the state.

Listed on the IUCN Red List of critically endangered animals, Sandy was born on March 22 to a 6-year-old second time mom named Petal. Within 30 minutes the adorable healthy baby was standing and nursing from her attentive mother.

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The LEO Zoological Conservation Center is a unique non-profit sanctuary for rare, threatened and endangered animals located in the heart of Connecticut. The refuge focuses on breeding species at risk of becoming extinct. Lionshare Educational Organization (LEO) was founded by Marcella and Peter Leone in 2009 on 100-acres of a previous golf course in Greenwich/Stamford, CT. The group says it "fills a growing need for an off-site breeding center by providing a large, natural, quiet habitat and a low impact atmosphere."

The conservation center is largely off-limits to the public, but remains open to members and guided tours. There is also an intern program for university students. LEO's philosophy is they were built for the animals and "not as entertainment for the public."

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LEO was very pleased with the healthy birth of Sandy. It is estimated there are less than 670 Rothschild giraffe's living in the wild in Kenya and Uganda. In February an endangered Eastern Mt. Bongo was also born at the conservation center. And in December the zoo enlisted help from a rescued dog to nurse four newborn North African Fennec Foxes.

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More than 7,000 people from 25 countries sent in entries to pick a name for the baby giraffe. There were 66 applicants who suggested honoring the victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and their families. Newtown residents will be given free membership to the conservation center for one year so they can visit Sandy Hope.

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