It's been an exciting two weeks for Santa Barbara Zoo, with two Masai giraffe calves born within ten days of each other! Five year-old Audrey gave birth to the first calf, a male named Dane, on April 18th. On April 28th, five year-old Betty Lou gave birth to a female, Sunshine. Both calves are healthy and under their mothers' care. Dane is six feet three inches tall and weighs 156 pounds. Slightly smaller, Sunshine stands six feet tall and weighs 133 pounds.
The mother-calf pairs will be rotated on and off exhibit, to allow them time to bond behind-the-scenes in a quiet barn. While both mothers are attentively caring for their own calves, Betty Lou is especially protective, and zoo staff are making sure that she and her calf are introduced safely into the group.
Michael, the father of the two calves, is separated from the young calves for now by a baby fence, simply because he is so large. “The calves need to get a little bigger, a little smarter and learn how to be giraffes,” says Sheri Horiszny, director of Animal Programs.
See photos of Dane below.
Photo credits: Santa Barbara Zoo
See the calves' debut on exhibit:
Masai giraffes are the largest subspecies of giraffe, growing up to eighteen feet tall and weighing up to 2,700 pounds. Recently, Masai giraffe populations have begun to decline in the wild. Santa Barabara exhibits Masai giraffes as a part of a regional giraffe management program with other West Coast zoos. This programs allows the zoos to breed healthy giraffes, maintaining genetic diversity while minimizing the distance giraffes have to be transported. The calves' father, Michael, is a particularly valuable asset to the program. Because of this, the two calves may eventually be transported to other zoos as a part of the breeding program, but will stay at Santa Barabara Zoo until they are about two years old.
See more photos below the fold.