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OKC Zoo Announces Birth Of Endangered Giraffe Calf

OKC Zoo’s giraffe matriarch, Ellie, welcomes a male calf, her sixth offspring to be born at the Zoo.

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is thrilled to announce the arrival of an endangered giraffe calf, born to 20-year-old, Ellie. Ellie’s sixth offspring to be born at the Zoo, a male, was born on Thursday, June 3, 2021, at 12:01 p.m. at the Zoo’s giraffe habitat barn. The calf, who is yet to be named, is the first to be fathered by four-year-old, Demetri. The Zoo’s youngest giraffe is healthy and strong, and weighs approximately 157 lbs. and stands six-foot one. He will continue to spend time bonding with his mother and herd mates behind the scenes. Ellie’s daughter, Julu, 5, is also pregnant and expected to deliver her first calf soon. It’s been neck and neck between this mother-daughter giraffe duo to see who would give birth first, and Ellie delivered! To view the giraffe birth, click here.

Giraffe Calf Credit Tracey Dolphin-Drees 1

“Witnessing Ellie and Julu experience pregnancy together has been the greatest joy and we’re thrilled to watch our herd grow with the addition of this little calf,” said OKC Zoo’s Curator of Hoofstock and Primates, Tracey Dolphin-Drees. “This birth is critical for the conservation of this endangered species and a true testament to the importance of the Zoo’s involvement in collaborative breeding efforts.”

Giraffe Calf Credit Tracey Dolphin-Drees 2

Ellie arrived at the Zoo in 2008 from the Birmingham Zoo, in Birmingham, Alabama. The calf’s father, Demetri, arrived from the Fossil Rim in Glen Rose, Texas, in 2018, as part of a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Giraffe Species Survival PlanTM (SSP). SSPs are cooperative, long-term management programs designed to maintain genetically viable and geographically stable populations of specific species. The Zoo is also home to two-year-old female, Mashamba.

Giraffe Calf Credit Tracey Dolphin-Drees 3

The gestation period for giraffes is approximately 15 months. The average weight for a newborn giraffe is about 150 pounds. Newborns stand within an hour of birth at a height of around six-feet tall. According to giraffe caretakers, Ellie’s water broke around 10:40 a.m. and she was in active labor until the calf’s birth at 12:01 p.m. By 1:13 p.m. the calf was standing and attempting to nurse. 

Giraffe Calf Credit Tracey Dolphin-Drees 4

Native to East and South Africa, giraffes are currently listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. There are approximately 111,000 giraffes remaining in the wild, an almost 40% decline since the 1980s. This population decline is caused by illegal poaching and habitat destruction. The Zoo has contributed to giraffe conservation for decades by supporting the Northern Rangelands Trust and the Giraffe Conservation Fund, as well as becoming a member of AZA’s Giraffe Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) partner organization in 2018.

Weather depending, Ellie and her calf will have access to the giraffe habitat yard over the weekend. The Zoo’s giraffe feeding experience will be tentative for the time being. Follow the Zoo’s social channels for updates about our growing giraffe family. 

               Love these gentle giants as much as we do? Save the Date for the Zoo’s World Giraffe Day celebration on Monday, June 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. presented locally by Bob Moore Subaru. Guests will enjoy information stations, biofacts, activities, photo opportunities and more.

The Oklahoma City Zoo is currently in its summer hours and open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last entry no later than 4 p.m. Purchase advance tickets at www.okczoo.org/tickets and avoid the entry lines. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over.

Children two and under are admitted free. Stay connected with the Zoo on FacebookTwitterInstagram and TikTok, and by visiting our blog stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming a ZOOfriends member. Starting at $45, memberships can be purchased at ZOOfriends.org and provide access to the OKC Zoo for an entire year plus, additional benefits and discounts. To learn more about Zoo happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.