Auckland Zoo is celebrating the arrival of its 31st giraffe calf: a 5.5 foot (1.7 m) female, delivered in record time to 12-year-old giraffe mum, Rukiya. The fifth offspring for Rukiya and 13-year-old dad Zabulu was born at 11:10 am on August 3, following a labour of less than three hours - Rukiya's fastest delivery to date.
The yet-to-named calf was standing within half an hour, with experienced mum Rukiya taking it all in her stride as she demonstrated her exceptional mothering skills. This included having her newborn successfully suckle from her the minute it could stand, something keeping staff have not seen at any other giraffe birth.
"Rukiya really took us by surprise this time. She was incredibly relaxed the day before the birth and right up until she started going into labour, and gave us none of the usual and obvious signs she was ready for action. She also stayed amazingly calm throughout the labour - which was significantly shorter than her others and by far the easiest and most relaxed," says Pridelands keeper, Kathryn McKee, who has been present for all five of Rukiya's births.
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"It's fantastic to see Rukiya doing so well, and we're delighted she has had a female. Dad Zabulu is a Rothschild's Giraffe and mum Rukiya is part-Rothschild, so genetically this newcomer is a valuable addition to the Australasian breeding programme," says Kathryn. Rothschild Giraffes are an endangered subspecies with fewer than 670 individuals left in the wild, according to the Rothschild Giraffe Project.
A health check was carried out by zoo vets, confirming the female calf is strong and healthy. Rukiya and her calf will be gradually integrated with the rest of the giraffe herd, zebra and ostrich in the giraffe paddock in Pridelands over the next month. In the next two weeks, visitors to the zoo may spot mum and her calf out in the paddock in the morning for brief periods.