Gladys Porter Zoo’s new giraffe named ‘Rocket’

Gladys Porter Zoo held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to announce Rocket as the official name of a baby giraffe. The name was chosen by Mary Muratore, who won the honor of naming the giraffe at the zoo's Zoofari fundraiser. (Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald)

GARY LONG | THE BROWNSVILLE HERALD

In this year’s Zoofari fundraising event a bidder named Mary Muratore won the honor of naming the giraffe. She chose “Rocket” in honor of SpaceX and the aerospace activities coming to the area.

“My husband and I moved to the area to support the growing aerospace activities here in South Texas,” she said. “I thought it would be a great idea for this giraffe to grow up along with the new launch pad.”

SpaceX is building a launch pad along Boca Chica beach east of Brownsville. The site is expected to undergo space vehicle tests in 2019 and eventually host launches.

Between now and her debut on Jan. 17, Rocket will undergo indoor socialization with the seven other members of the GPZ reticulated giraffe herd, zoo director Pat Burchfield said.

“A lot of work has gone into rearing that baby,” Burchfield said. “We’re in the process of socializing the baby with all members of the herd indoors so she becomes familiar with the sights and smells of the other giraffes.”

Reticulated giraffes are an endangered species and move among American Zoological Association accredited zoos to manage them through a Species Survival Plan. The plan determines the most advantageous pairings, with the objective of having an assurance population of giraffes at the AZA zoos that will be viable 200 years into the future, Burchfield said.

“We’re a backstop for the wild,” Burchfield said.

Several species have been introduced back into the wild as a result of captive breeding programs at GPZ and other AZA accredited zoos, he said.

These include the Arabian Oryx, black-footed ferret, Coahuilan box turtles and Philippine crocidiles, Burchfield said.

Gladys Porter Zoo is the largest conservation entity in South Texas, he added.

As of Wednesday, it was T-minus 30 days to Rocket’s debut.