The New Year started off amazing for Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, in Florida! On January 17th, the zoo welcomed a 193 pound female Reticulated Giraffe.
The calf stood 6 ft. 2 inches, at birth. She has been on exhibit, enjoying becoming acquainted with the rest of the zoo’s young giraffes. Proud parents of the new girl are ‘Naomi’ and ‘Duke’.
Giraffes are the tallest animals on earth and can reach a maximum height of 18 feet. Both males and females have horns, and each animal has unique markings that grow darker with age. In the wild, giraffes can live up to 25 years, and they have been known to live as long as 28 years, in captivity.
In the wild, they prefer to eat leaves and shoots of trees. However, in zoos, they are fed alfalfa hay, grain, browse, fruits, and vegetables.
Observations in the wild indicate that they lie down only 5-6 hours per night. During most of this time, the animals remain alert with their necks erect and their eyes alternately opened and closed. Giraffes may go into a deep sleep for just 5 minutes each night. During deep sleep a giraffe bends its neck backward in an arch and rests its head behind its back legs or on an extended back leg.
The gestation period for giraffes is about 15 months. Breeding can occur throughout the year and a single calf is born, rarely twins. Calves are usually 6 feet tall and can stand up 20 minutes after birth. Females are excellent mothers and defend their calves vigorously. In the wild, lions are the principal predators of calves, although hyenas, leopards and even wild dogs may also kill newborns up to three months of age. Male calves are weaned at approximately 15 months. Female calves are weaned a couple of months later. There is no difference in the mortality rate between male and female calves.
Jacksonville Zoo acquired their first giraffe, a male named ‘Long John’, in December 1957.