Florida on a Tankful: Giraffe Ranch welcomes Baby Irma

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, September 22, 2017, 12:00 PM EDT

When Hurricane Irma blew into Pasco County, a heard of Dexter cattle in Dade City weathered the storm in stride.

"Irma comes through with 110 mile per hour winds, and we're just praying everything is ok,” recalled Lex Salisbury, the owner of the Giraffe Ranch.

Salisbury's herd of Dexter cattle, imported from Ireland and known for being half the size of a traditional cow, had a surprise waiting.

"Not only did nobody escaped, nobody died, but we had a new baby Dexter cow."

Lex discovered the baby after the storm passed and named her, you guessed it, “Irma.”

"It was an epiphany, despite all of the destruction,” Lex explained a week after the storm.  “Life is stronger than that and life goes on.”

Lex was impressed in the “midst of all that chaos,” something so innocent and precious as a baby was born.

The baby born on September 11 was followed by a second baby born on September 21. Besides little Irma and her sister, there's quite a few animals you don’t commonly see.

"Giraffe Ranch is like going to Africa," Lex said. "And I've been to Africa 30 times, and we pretty much stole the best ideas we found in Africa and sort of put them to use here."

Folks travel the property like they are on safari during guided tours.  Hybrid school buses and truck cabs haul small groups of passengers past the animal habitats.

"This is not a zoo,” Lex cautioned.  “We're putting animals behind very large perimeter fences and wilderness areas."

Also on hand, giraffe, zebra, ostrich and in the distance, rhino.  Along with camel like Lincoln, who shares affection when called.

"What's my buddy doing?" Asks Lincoln, rewarding him with a fresh magnolia tree branch.

Know Before You Go:
Giraffe Ranch is only open to those who make reservations in advance.  Learn more here.

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