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LI Game Farm's Clifford the giraffe celebrates birthday

Jason Tellstone, of Shirley, helps his son Anthony,

Jason Tellstone, of Shirley, helps his son Anthony, 2, feed Clifford the giraffe during a celebration for the camelopard's 7th birthday at the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville. (July 6, 2013) Credit: Heather Walsh

Clifford is a real party animal.

The giraffe celebrated his 7th birthday Saturday at his seasonal home at Long Island Game Farm in Manorville, where he gorged on a platter of kale, carrots and bananas -- a birthday concoction fit for a camelopard -- in front of about a dozen friends and admirers.

The Long Island Game Farm acquired Clifford about a year ago from Florida, where he spends the coldest months of the year. He's the only giraffe at the Manorville farm, and one of its most popular and sociable animals.

While onlookers snapped his picture and kids extended handfuls of alfalfa pellets to the gentle giant, he swooped down and nuzzled their palms with his lips and long, purplish black tongue.

Banana peels are his favorite, said Nicole Robinson, 18, a staff member at the farm who has a special bond with Clifford. He seems to know a visit from Robinson means treats. "He definitely has a wonderful personality," she said.

Robinson said Clifford is eager to see the staff in the morning, emerging from his tall shed when they come to clean his pen and offer him food. "You'll see him pop his head out, kind of excited, and he'll walk right over to you. Even if you don't have anything he'll nudge your face, show you his tongue," she said.

Brooke Ross, 18, of Manorville, cooed at Clifford as he obediently lipped treats out of her hand. Ross so loves giraffes she had a giraffe-themed birthday party in May -- complete with a 5-foot-tall stuffed replica. She had no idea the real thing was within walking distance of her house.

When her mom, Lynne, read in the paper about Clifford's birthday bash, she took her daughter. "She was obsessed with giraffes and loves them, so I had her friends come over, and we did this whole theme not knowing there was a giraffe right in Manorville," Lynne Ross said.

This was 2-year-old Anthony Tellstone's second meeting with Clifford.

"He loves it here," said his dad, Jason Tellstone, of Shirley. "As soon as we mention 'giraffe,' he freaks out, so we're here."

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