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Santa Barbara Zoo Hosts Homecoming for New Residents

The zoo welcomes to the family Betty Lou and Audrey, two young female Masai giraffes

On Thursday, while many Santa Barbara residents no doubt were hustling to send in their 2009 tax returns, the Santa Barbara Zoo unveiled two new dependents that officials hope will greet guests for years to come.

Audrey and Betty Lou, two young female Masai giraffes, join Sulima, the zoo’s Baringo giraffe in the African Veldt exhibit. The zoo is making a transition from exhibiting Baringo giraffes to showcasing Masai giraffes as part of a regional giraffe management program with other West Coast zoos, including Los Angeles and San Diego.

Audrey and Betty Lou arrived March 10 from the Los Angeles Zoo. Betty Lou was born Aug. 2, 2007, and Audrey on Feb. 6, 2008, both at the San Diego Zoo. Although Audrey is younger, she is taller than Betty Lou. Both giraffes are young and growing and could top 17 feet in height.

As it turns out, Audrey was named by Santa Barbara residents Doug, Hanna and Audrey Dreier. The family won the naming rights in a silent auction at last summer’s “Zoobecue.”

Also on Thursday, the Santa Barbara Zoo received its accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

Kris Vehrs, executive director of the AZA, was on hand to present Rich Block, Santa Barbara Zoo CEO; Nancy McToldridge, zoo director; and zoo staff with this recognition.

To be accredited, the zoo went through a thorough investigation to ensure it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards in animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety.

“We are honored to be counter among the accredited zoos in the AZA,” Block said. “This achievement is a testament to the dedicated work of our professional staff, the impassioned commitment of our volunteers, and the steadfast support of our members and donors. We are committed to building great experiences around animals that touch and enrich the lives of over 450,000 guests every year.”

Zoo staff told Noozhawk that a young male Masai giraffe will join Audrey and Betty Lou this summer. The Masai giraffes will breed once they reach maturity.

— John Conroy is a contributing photographer for Noozhawk.

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