After a 15-month-long gestation period, a veteran Giraffe mom, at Taipei Zoo, gave birth on May 13th. The healthy male Giraffe calf fell to earth at a height of 5.9 feet (180 cm) and a weight of 137 lbs (62 kg). He has been given the nickname ‘Xiao Zhang’.
Mother and calf are doing well, and the newborn is nursing, as hoped. They will be off-exhibit until they are both stronger and have had opportunity to bond.
The calf’s birth occurred just two days after the Zoo’s unfortunate loss of a female calf, named ‘Chick’. Chick’s mother refused to nurse her, and, despite two months of intense intervention by keepers, Chick refused to eat and passed from malnutrition.
Giraffe gestation lasts 400-460 days, after which a single calf is normally born, although twins occur on rare occasions. The mother gives birth standing up. The calf emerges head and front legs first, having broken through the fetal membranes, and falls to the ground, severing the umbilical cord. The mother then grooms the newborn and helps it stand up. A newborn Giraffe is about 6ft (182.88 cm) tall. Within hours of birth, the calf can run around and is almost indistinguishable from a one-week-old. However, for the first 1 to 3 weeks, it spends most of its time hiding; its coat pattern providing camouflage. The ossicones (horn-like protuberance on head), which have lain flat while in womb, become erect within a few days.
The Giraffe species, as a whole, is classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. However, Giraffes have been extirpated from much of their historic range, including: Eritrea, Guinea, Mauritania, and Senegal. They may have also disappeared from Angola, Mali, and Nigeria. They have been introduced to Rwanda and Swaziland. Two subspecies, the West African Giraffe and the Rothschild Giraffe, have been classified as “Endangered”.