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.
Photo Credits: Brittney Hendricks
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.
A Rothschild’s Giraffe born at the United Kingdom’s Paignton Zoo on January 11 is thriving under the care of zoo keepers after her mother rejected her.
Photo Credit: Miriam Haas/Paignton Zoo
Keepers are not sure why the mother, Janica, refused to care for her female calf, which has been named Eliska, but they have wholeheartedly taken on the daunting task of caring for a six-foot-tall baby who drinks up to two gallons of milk a day.
Senior head keeper of mammals Matthew Webb, who has been helping to feed Eliska, said, “She will take in around 10% of her body weight in milk each day and gain weight just as quickly. She was 63 kilos (139 pounds) at birth, but as she grows, so will her milk requirements.”
Luckily, a local organic dairy farm has offered to supply the zoo with milk as long as Eliska needs it. Eliska is fed four times a day and could need milk for up to nine months. She will begin weaning at around five to six months of age.
As soon as possible, keepers plan to introduce Eliska to the rest of the herd. This is an important step and will ensure that Eliska knows that she is a Giraffe, not a human. Paignton Zoo has successfully hand-reared one other Giraffe calf.
Rothschild's Giraffes, also known as Baringo Giraffes, are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Those living in European zoos are managed by the European Endangered Species Program.
Keepers at Allwetter Zoo, in Germany, are excited to share the birth of a Giraffe calf! The boy was born to eight-year-old mother ‘Makena’ on December 29th.
Photo Credits: Allwetter Zoo
After a gestation period of about 15 months, the male arrived weighing 45 kg (99 lbs.) and measuring 1.70 m (5 ½ feet) tall. This is the third calf for mother, Makena. Although he stays close to his mother, the new calf has had difficulty nursing and requires bottle feeds from zoo staff.
Zoo staff are optimistic that he will continue to grow and progress. He now happily explores his enclosure with his mother and is stronger every day.
As 2014 came to an end, Lion Country Safari, in Florida, welcomed its fifth giraffe birth of the year!
Photo Credits: Lion Country Safari
On December 30th, a 70-inch, 165-pound baby boy was born. The baby, named ‘Hakuna’, is safe in the maternity pen with his mom and is joined by fellow newborn, ‘Matata’ (born on Dec. 16). They are visible in the drive-through preserve (section 7, HwangeNational Park) or from the giraffe feeding exhibit at Lion Country Safari. After three months, they will join the entire giraffe herd.
Female giraffe reproduce year-round beginning at about four years of age. Their conception peak is usually during the rainy season and their gestation lasts approximately 15 months. Giraffe calves are born while the mother is in a standing position and they drop to the ground head first. Life expectancy of a giraffe is approximately 25 years.
Lion Country Safari is dedicated to the captive breeding of a number of rare or endangered species and is proud to participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan. This conservation program helps to ensure the survival of selected wildlife species.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium welcomed a female Reticulated Giraffe calf on November 4th. She weighed 138 pounds and was 72 inches tall, at birth.
Photo Credits: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo
The 15-year-old mother, ‘Dottie’, is taking her motherly duties seriously, and she is very protective of the new calf. The father of the calf is 6-year-old ‘Jawara’, who came to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, in August of 2008, from the Brookfield Zoo, in Brookfield, Illinois.
The calf currently weighs 171 pounds and will gain about 3.5 to 4 pounds per day, growing at an enormous rate her first year of life. She will nurse for about four months, and then will begin consuming solid food.
Dottie and her calf can be seen in the indoor exhibit of the Giraffe Complex. They are currently secluded from the rest of the herd, and will be introduced to the others one-by-one. The calf will most likely remain in the zoo’s herd, and will not be transferred to another facility.The zoo recently sponsored a naming contest for the calf, and they will announce the winner on December 10th.
Audrey, a Masai Giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo, delivered her third calf in four years on November 13. The baby, a male, arrived less than two hours after keepers observed the onset of labor.
Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Zoo
Most Giraffe calves stand within about an hour of birth. This calf, named Buttercup by zoo donors, attempted to stand just 15 minutes after birth. The floor was slippery due to the birth fluids, and keepers decided to step in and help Buttercup get upright. After they moved him to a drier spot on the floor, the calf got his footing and took his first wobbly steps.
Another indicator of a healthy calf is nursing within a few hours of birth. Buttercup nursed about two-and-a-half hours after birth. At four days old, Buttercup visited the zoo’s Giraffe exhibit with Audrey, where he met the zoo’s other adult female Giraffe, Betty Lou, and saw the Zoo Train for the first time.
“Our professional staff prepared for and implemented the plan for an easy and healthy birth,” said Zoo Director Nancy McToldridge. “Everything went smoothly, even when Buttercup needed to be moved to a drier spot in order to stand up.”
“Because there are just over one hundred Masai Giraffes in captivity in North America, each birth and each Giraffe is very important,” said Sheri Horiszny, Director of Animal Care. “I’m very proud of our sire Michael, as he’s now clearly a proven breeder, and his genetics greatly help the diversity of our Masai population.”
Betty Lou is also pregnant, and Giraffe keepers estimate that she will give birth in March 2015. The sire in both pregnancies is Michael, the zoo’s only male Giraffe. Giraffes have a 14.5-month gestation period.
Masai Giraffes are the tallest of all Giraffe subspecies and are found in Kenya and Tanzania. Like all Giraffes, this subspecies is declining in the wild due to loss of habitat. Conservation programs hold the key to survival for all wild Giraffes.
The new calf is named Ajali, which means “destiny” in Swahili. Ajali’s mother Tuli has delivered seven previous calves, so she is a very experienced mother.
Ajali already has a best friend – male calf Nkosi, who was born on August 3.
“It is always nice to see youngsters on exhibit together and knowing that they have a companion close to their age. As they grow and develop, visitors will see the pair running around together and exhibiting playful behaviors,” said zoo keeper Anthony Dorrian.
“The calves are already starting to develop a relationship, as Nkosi is very curious about the new calf,” said Dorrian.
Giraffe numbers have been decreasing in the wild by more than 30% in the past decade, with about 80,000 Giraffes remaining on Africa's savannahs. Poaching for bush meat and habitat encroachment by humans are having a drastic effect on the wild population.
“Every birth for a species such as the Giraffe that is experiencing a decline in the wild population is important, as it helps to insure against extinction,” said Dorrian.
The Dallas Zoo has welcomed a leggy, 6-foot-tall baby Giraffe, born October 26th to first-time mother, ‘Chrystal’.
Photo Credits: Dallas Zoo
The male calf’s arrival wasn’t without excitement. Giraffe keepers and the veterinary team had closely monitored the pregnancy and labor. When 6-year-old Chrystal’s labor halted after about two hours, the team quickly moved her into a special, custom-built chute in the Giraffe barn. There, keepers were able to restrain her without using anesthesia, a risk they wanted to avoid for the health of both mom and calf.
With Chrystal safely ensconced in the chute, the veterinary team moved in quickly. Jan Raines, D.V.M., determined that the calf’s head and neck were positioned to the side of the front legs, instead of aligned with them. Raines was able to move the calf’s head and neck into the correct position, and Lynn Kramer, D.V.M., and the Giraffe keeper team delivered the newborn. They gently lowered it more than 6 feet to the ground. The calf was then moved into the barn’s maternity stall, equipped with extra layers of soft sand and overhead video cameras. Chrystal immediately joined the calf, licking him and nudging him. Soon he stood on wobbly new legs, and began to nurse shortly after.
“The chute and our team’s training definitely paid off, allowing us to provide excellent emergency care to Chrystal and the calf,” said Kramer, who is also the Dallas Zoo’s vice president of animal operations and welfare.
“A new giraffe is always a reason to celebrate,” Kramer added. “They’re remarkable animals, and are seriously threatened in the wild. Conservation is a key mission of our zoo, and this calf’s birth will allow us to offer a timely teaching message about the efforts being made on their behalf.”
“We were keeping a close eye on Chrystal,” Giraffe supervisor, Lisa Fitzgerald said. “It’s been three years since we had a calf, so our team is quite excited. Caring for a newborn this big is always a challenge, but it’s one that we love.”
Zoo staffers are now observing to ensure the calf is nursing and meeting appropriate developmental milestones. The energetic male calf weighs about 120 pounds and appears to be healthy. He could go out into the feeding habitat, with limited access, as soon as next week. For about three months, the baby and Chrystal will stay indoors during the evening, until the calf is big enough to be with the herd at nighttime.
The calf is a Reticulated Giraffe, a species with fewer than 4,700 left in the wild, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. The father is the gregarious ‘Tebogo’, one of the Dallas Zoo’s most popular residents.
Tebogo is the zoo’s only breeding male under the Giraffe Species Survival Plan’s (SSP) program to ensure genetic diversity within endangered species. Tebogo also is the father of the last giraffe calf born at the Dallas Zoo, ‘Jamie’, born to ‘Katie’ in July 2011.
The Dallas Zoo’s 12-member giraffe herd is now one of the largest in the nation, with seven males and five females. Their ages range from the newborn to the oldest, ‘Auggie’, who is 12.
The staff at Franklin Park Zoo, in New England, is pleased to announce the birth of a female Masai Giraffe Calf!
Photo Credits: Amanda Giardina/Zoo New England (1,2,3,4,5); Sarah Woodruff (6,7,8,9,10,11)
After a labor and delivery that lasted about an hour, mother, ‘Jana’, gave birth to the female giraffe calf, on October 2nd, inside the Giraffe Barn. Within 40 minutes of birth, the calf was standing, and she was observed nursing about an hour and a half after birth.
The female calf had her first examination, the following day, by the Zoo’s veterinary staff. She weighed 160 pounds and stood at 6-feet tall.
The calf’s parents, ‘Beau’ and ‘Jana’, are very genetically valuable within the North American captive Masai Giraffe population. Since 2006, Beau and Jana have had five successful births, including the new calf. The pair are also grandparents as well, with offspring at zoos up and down the eastern United States.
“We are so thrilled to share the news of this exciting birth,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “Jana is an experienced mother and she is doing everything a mother giraffe should do. As with any new birth, we are continuing to monitor the mother and baby closely.”
Giraffes are more temperature sensitive than other savannah animals, and are kept indoors when temperatures drop below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. However, on October 8th, the new calf was able to enjoy a beautiful Boston day and explore the outdoor area with her mother!
Beau and Jana were bred as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Zoo New England is an active participant in this program. SSPs are designed to maintain genetically diverse and demographically stable captive populations of species.