Posted by Juliapr on:
Mother Arrived from LA Zoo in March 2010; Turns Three in February - Very Young for Giraffe Pregnancy
Breeding Not Observed at Los Angeles Zoo; Pregnancy Not Easily Determined in Giraffes
Daniel Born at 5'9" and 106 Pounds; Hand-Raised by Keepers
Public Can Support Giraffe Herd by Becoming Giraffe Foster Feeders
CALF NOT ON VIEW TO PUBLIC FOR SEVERAL WEEKS
Santa Barbara, CA (January 21, 2011) - Zookeepers at the Santa Barbara Zoo were somewhat surprised but certainly delighted to discover that one of the Zoo's new Masai giraffes, Audrey, had given birth to a male calf on Sunday morning, January 9.
The calf, named Daniel by donors, was measured at 5-feet 9-inches tall and 106 pounds. He will not be on view to the public for several weeks, until he learns come in from the giraffe yard to the barn for feedings by keepers.
"Unbeknownst to us, Audrey arrived in Santa Barbara in March 2010 approximately five months pregnant," notes Sheri Horiszny, Director of Animal Programs. "Nothing in her records indicated that Los Angeles Zoo keepers had ever seen their male showing interest in her or attempting to breed her."
Unlike humans, determining pregnancy is not simple in giraffes, and her increase in weight was attributed to normal growth. There is no breeding season for giraffes, and females usually first mate around age four. Gestation is 14 to 15 months.
"In addition to giraffe's natural growth, it is likely a genetic defense strategy for animal mothers not to look pregnant to keep predators from singling them out," notes Zoo Director Nancy McToldridge.
In the wild, giraffe calf survival rates are around 25%; in captivity they are approximately 50% under the best of conditions. "We have a very young, first-time mother making it even more challenging," adds Horiszny.
Audrey refused to nurse the young calf. Getting the first milk, containing colostrum, is very important for all mammals as it provides immunity for the calf until it can produce its own antibodies at about six to eight weeks old.
"Miraculously, we found a woman in town who had a goat in labor, and she was willing to milk it for us," reports Horiszny. "We gave our calf the goat colostrum, in hopes that it will help him stay healthy. He is now being bottle fed a combination of goat's milk and cow colostrum, and will be on a bottle for about seven to eight months."
The cow colostrum is now provided by Organic Pastures (www.organicpastures.com), a family-owned and operated organic raw dairy, farm and creamery located in the San Joaquin Valley near Fresno.
The calf, named Daniel by donors Chad and Ginni Dreier. The public can help the Zoo welcome Daniel by becoming a Foster Feeder sponsor of the giraffe herd. A tax-deductible donation of $50 helps with the cost of feeding Daniel and his family. New giraffe Foster Feeders receive a baby photo of Daniel along with a certificate, giraffe fact sheet, and recognition on the Zoo's Foster Feeder board. For information, visit www.sbzoo.org.
About the Santa Barbara Zoo's Giraffes
The Zoo is making a transition from exhibiting Baringo giraffes to showcasing Masai giraffes, as part of a regional giraffe management program with other West Coast zoos including those in Los Angeles and San Diego. This allows the zoos to maximize the genetic diversity within the sub-species, while minimizing distances giraffes have to be transported.
Audrey and Betty Lou arrived in Santa Barbara on March 10, 2010, from the Los Angeles Zoo. Betty Lou was born at the San Diego Zoo on August 2, 2007. Audrey was born on February 6, 2008 at the Los Angeles Zoo. The two were housed together at the Los Angeles Zoo beginning in October 2009. Both young female giraffes are still growing, and could top 16 feet in height. The Masai is the largest subspecies of giraffes.
Aged 21, the Zoo's remaining Baringo giraffe, Sulima, is considered quite elderly for a giraffe, and will live at the Santa Barbara Zoo for the remainder of her life. The arrival of a young male Masai giraffe, slated to join the three females later this year, may be pushed back due to the birth of the calf.
The two subspecies of giraffes can be told apart by their spot patterns. Masai giraffes have lacy-edged, oak leaf shaped, irregular spot patterns; Baringos (also called Rothchild's giraffes) have polygon-like spots.
About Masai Giraffes
Masai giraffes are common and not currently at risk on the African savannahs of Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa, but herds are dependent on conservation programs throughout their range.
They can spend 16 to 20 hours a day browsing on leaves, twigs, bark, flowers, and fruit from more than 60 different kinds of plants. They can go without water for several months if they have enough fresh browse. The whistling-thorn acacia is one of their favorite foods in the wild. Because of long legs and long necks, giraffes don't have to compete with other grazing animals for food.
Giraffes are the tallest land mammal, and Masai giraffe are the largest subspecies and can grow up to 17 feet tall and weigh 2,700 pounds. Both males and females may have two hair-covered horns called ossicones growing out of the top of their skulls. Their tongues are black, to keep it from getting sunburned. Giraffes have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as humans do - seven; they are just much bigger.
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The Santa Barbara Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; general admission is $12 for adults, $10 for children 2-12 and seniors 65+, and children under 2 are free. Parking is $5.
The Santa Barbara Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). AZA zoos are dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great visitor experience, and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and is the public's link to helping animals in their native habitats.