It wouldn’t be a stretch (bad pun intended) to say Autumn is probably the tallest 10-month-old in Fulton County.
In fact, when she was born in September 2013, she was already 6 feet tall. Now, she stands at 9 feet.
No, Autumn is not a mutant offspring (although that would be kind of cool). She’s a giraffe.
Autumn, named after the season she was born in, is one of the main attractions at Adirondack Animal Land in Vail Mills. She lives at the zoo with her mother, April, and another giraffe brought in to one day mate with her.
“Giraffes are known as gentle giants,” said Dave Eglin, owner and founder of the zoo with his wife, Patricia. “It’s unbelievable how quiet and how gentle they are.”
As Eglin talked, families with their kids gathered around the pen where the giraffes are kept. Many started taking pictures and tried feeding them.
While others were at Saratoga Race Course for opening day, those at the zoo were more than happy seeing the bears, zebra and llama, among other animals. Unlike other zoos, people can pet some of the animals and even feed them. Eglin calls it his “ace in the hole” for people to be able to feed and pet the animals, including the giraffes, one of the zoo’s main attractions.
“Everybody loves giraffes,” he said.
Joe and Liza Carbonara came from Albany with their 2-year-old son, Maksim, to see the animals, especially the giraffes.
“That was the primary reason to come here,” Joe Carbonara said.
When feeding the giraffes, he held his son in his arms. April came over and craned her neck over the fence, allowing Maksim to feed it rye crackers sold at the zoo. Every time Maksim would lift his hand slightly, the mother giraffe would notice it as a signal and use its long tongue to lap up the crackers from his fingers, causing him to squeal and clap.
Liza Carbonara said she has always been interested in giraffes.
“They’re just so different,” she said, also citing the fact that they are gentle creatures.
Friday marked the first time she also fed and petted a giraffe.
Kim Zawadzki came from Buffalo with her two children, Zoe, 5, and Randy, 3, as well as her sister, Britney Norton, Norton’s two kids, Carter, 8, and Chloe, 4, and the women’s mother, Paula Aton of Binghamton.
“It’s purple,” Chloe said, describing the giraffe’s tongue as she fed it.
Kim Zawadzki lifted up each kid with a cracker in their hand so the giraffe could reach for it.
By this time next year, there will be another giraffe for families to see and feed: April is pregnant again and is expected to give birth in December or January.
Adirondack Animal Land is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Labor Day, “rain or shine,” according to Eglin.