LIMESTONE, Tenn. (WJHL) — One of the world’s rarest giraffes born at Brights Zoo in July has been named Kipekee.
The name, meaning unique, was revealed Monday morning on the “Today” show.
According to Brights Zoo, giraffe experts believe Kipekee is the only solid-color reticulated giraffe living anywhere on the planet.
Brights Zoo’s name poll brought in about 39,798 votes from people around the world, in places like the United Kingdom, India, Germany and France.
Kipekee won by 6,000 votes.
Over the past couple of weeks, Brights Zoo has gained international attention, and Zoo Director David Bright told News Channel 11 he never could have imagined the impact Kipekee could have on his business.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in foot traffic,” said Bright. “People from all over the world are making it here to get a chance to visit East Tennessee mainly just to come see this giraffe.”
Visitors have reportedly traveled from as far away as the United Kingdom for a chance to see the rare giraffe.
“I came to see the giraffe with no spots,” said zoo visitor Chris Manzella. “I volunteer at the San Diego Zoo in California and when I saw this baby on Facebook, I had to come see.”
Zoo staff said Kipekee is getting more used to the cameras and people every day, but her mom remains cautious.
“[Kipekee’s mom] wants to know and has realized that everyone’s here to see her baby,” said the zoo’s lead hoofstock keeper, Derrick Maltman. “So, the first couple of days when she had that realization and Kipekee was closer to the public’s side of things, mom would walk up by the fence line, body block everyone for about five minutes or so and say, ‘my baby needs a little bit of a break.'”
The zoo made more money over Labor Day weekend than they typically do during the entire month of September, ownership told News Channel 11.
Bright said zoos have contacted them to move Kipekee to a different location, but he said she is staying in East Tennessee.
The zoo broke ground on their second overflow parking lot Tuesday which they hope will help with their increased business. Bright said he hopes the parking lot will be ready before this weekend.
Brights Zoo is open from 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. every day except Thursdays. For the best times to see Kipekee, click here.