FREDERICKSBURG, Texas (KXAN) — One zoo in Fredericksburg aims to connect guests with animals in conservation through tours and highly-requested overnight stays in the giraffe barn.
Longneck Manor in Fredericksburg gives visitors up-close interactions with its rhinos and giraffes and aims to save animals in the wild through its conservation park, founder and director Rick Barongi said.
The zoo is currently home to three giraffes — named Kafele, Betty White and Tana — and three rhinos —named Fred, Barney and Justin. All of the animals arrived from major zoos and a Florida facility.
The zoo is also growing, with a baby giraffe expected to be born in three months and a two-toed sloth named Bruno coming from South America. Barongi also has plans to breed rhinos and add okapis, or forest giraffes.
Guests can also sleep next to giraffes in the Giraffe Suite, which starts at $1,300 per night. The suite is already booked through 2023 after a TikTok went viral in January. So guests should plan their stay starting in 2024.
The suite is on the second floor of the giraffe barn and includes a window guests can open to feed them.
“You wake up in the morning and, quite often, the big male giraffe is looking right in at you,” he said.
Longneck Manor has expansion plans for three overnight cottages with decks overlooking the animals. They should open for summer 2023, Barongi said.
Barongi opened the Fredericksburg zoo in 2021, after a career at other major zoos, as a place for people to understand the animals and their conservation stories rather than visit a zoo for photos of dozens of animals.
Barongi said the zoo has two animals because it’s about quality, not quantity.
“We’re not looking for diversity of animals,” he said. “We’re looking to focus on animals that have very unique stories. Stories that show you that they’re, you know, what’s happening with them in the wild.”
Giraffes and rhinos live at Longneck Manor because of their conservation stories, Barongi said. He said there are fewer than 100,000 giraffes left in Africa because they are hunted for their meat. And fewer than 20,000 rhinos remain, and they are hunted for medicinal purposes even though their horns are made of compacted hair.
The giraffe is listed as a “vulnerable” species, the white rhino is “near threatened,” and the black rhino is “critically endangered,” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
“We try to focus on the positive things, the hope … where we can make a difference,” he said. “When you come out here, just even part of your tour money or your overnight stay is already going to help save animals in the wild.”
Know before you go
Guests can take guided walking tours of the zoo where guides teach about the animals and their care process. Tours are limited to 10 people and typically last 90 minutes.
Tours must be booked in advance online and are offered daily. The cost is $95 per person, but guests under age 2 get free admission.
This story is part of a KXAN series highlighting Central Texas activities — you can see our full list on our “Central Texas Things to Do” page. Do you have an idea of something we should profile? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.