The Santa Barbara Zoo has a new Masai Giraffe calf. Audrey, aged eight, gave birth to the calf on the evening of March 26 in the Zoo’s Giraffe Barn, after approximately five hours of labor.
The male calf has been named “Chad” in honor of long-time Santa Barbara Zoo supporters, the Dreier Family. The Dreier Family has sponsored seven Giraffes at the Zoo including Chad’s parents Michael and Audrey. “Chad” represents many members of the Dreier family whose first or middle names contain the appellation.
At the calf’s first exam by the Santa Barbara Zoo Animal Care team, the male was measured at six-feet-six-inches-tall and weighed 191 pounds.
According to the Santa Barbara Zoo’s director of animal care, Sheri Horiszny, Giraffe calves are born after a gestation of roughly 14.5 months and are typically 125-150 pounds and six feet tall at birth. Chad should grow approximately three feet during his first year of life. Horiszny is also the Program Leader for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Masai Giraffe Species Survival Program.
Chad recently made his public debut and explored the outdoor exhibit with mom Audrey. Zoo staff say the best time to catch a glimpse of Chad is between 10am and noon.
The Zoo’s Giraffe herd is part of the population of 120 Masai Giraffes that live at 28 North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Michael, the calf’s sire, is considered the most genetically valuable male Masai Giraffe in captivity, because he has few relatives in zoos other than his offspring born here at the Zoo, which now numbers five.
“Michael’s genetics greatly help the diversity of the North American Masai population,” said Sheri Horiszny, director of animal care. “Every Masai Giraffe born here is critical to keeping the gene pool robust.”
This is the fourth birth for Audrey at the Zoo. Her last calf, Buttercup, born in November 2014, is currently part of the Zoo’s herd. The Zoo’s other female, Betty Lou, is also pregnant, and is expected to give birth in July 2016. This is her third pregnancy and her other offspring are at other accredited zoos as part of a cooperative breeding program of the AZA’s Species Survival Plan. Giraffes have a 14.5-month gestation period.
The Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is divided into nine subspecies. There are three subspecies most commonly found in zoological facilities: Reticulated, Rothschild, and Masai.
The Masai Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi), also known as the Kilimanjaro Giraffe, is the largest subspecies and tallest land mammal. It is native to Kenya and Tanzania.
According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the Masai may be the most populous of the Giraffe subspecies. There is an estimated fewer than 37,000 remaining in the wild, (though recent reports of significant poaching would suggest it likely to be significantly less) and approximately 100 individuals kept in zoos.
Habitat loss, poaching, disease and civil unrest pose the most significant threats to wild giraffe.
The public can help the Santa Barbara Zoo care for Chad by becoming a Foster Feeder sponsor of the calf. A donation of $50 helps with the cost of feeding the growing Giraffe family. New Giraffe Foster Feeders receive a baby photo of the calf along with a certificate, Giraffe fact sheet, and recognition on the Zoo’s Foster Feeder board. For information, visit www.sbzoo.org.