Rolling Hills Zoo has a new member of their animal family, a baby giraffe.
The zoo announced earlier this fall that Zuri, a 6-year-old giraffe, was in the later stages of pregnancy. The gestation period for giraffes can last up to 15 months, so the baby giraffe was expected to arrive in late November or early December.
According to the zoo, Zuri gave birth over Thanksgiving weekend. On Sunday, at about 4:30 pm, her water broke. Zuri gave birth at 5:59 p.m. to a healthy male calf that stands close to six feet tall.
Once the calf was born, Zuri went to work cleaning him, and 22 minutes after his birth he made his first attempt to stand. After a few failed attempts by the calf to get his feet underneath him, Zuri started to encourage him, because in the wild it is imperative that a calf is up on its feet and ready to move with the mother to avoid predation by lions or hyenas. By 7:03 p.m., while still wobbly, he was up on all fours. At 7:14 p.m. the calf took his first steps, and was up and going from then on. The calf was seen nursing about an hour and a half after birth.
While everything looks good for the new calf, Zoo staff members caution that we are not out of the woods yet. “We will monitor closely the calf and dam via video cameras without constantly going in the building and potentially interrupting the pair. We will continue to monitor and observe the calf’s overall appearance, demeanor and activity. Things can change quickly with newborns, but we are cautiously optimistic given progress and signs thus far,” shared Dr. Danelle Okeson, RHZ veterinarian.
The baby baby giraffe is the first born at Rolling Hills Zoo, and the first for for mother, Zuri, and father, Btuanya (otherwise known as BT).
Zuri was born July 13, 2010, at Atlanta, Georgia and was owned by Disney. She arrived at Rolling Hills Zoo on November 18, 2011, as part of a loan exchange program. She was then officially donated to Rolling Hills Zoo in 2013.
As a six year old, Zuri is in her prime to breed and was recommended to breed to BT as part of the Species Survival Program. Since last October the staff had been speculating about her impending pregnancy. During the pregnancy the staff trained Zuri for an ultrasound so that they could get a look at the growing baby bump. She also underwent three rounds of fecal hormone testing. A final ultra sound in July confirmed her pregnancy. On Nov 9th her pregnant weight was 2,000 pounds.
Since she was to be a first time mother, the staff prepared for a complicated birth which could include the potential of hand raising the calf. This would require 24/7 feedings to make sure that the baby had the proper nutrients and colostrum normally received from the mother. An indoor holding area was also expanded for additional nursery space by taking over the old African crane winter space.
“The staff has done a fantastic job in preparing for this birth by thinking through and preparing for every possible scenario they might encounter with this delivery,” shared Robert Jenkins, RHZ Executive Director.
At this time the giraffe barn is closed for public viewing. The Zoo asks for the public’s patience and understanding while they assess the health and well-being of both the mother and calf and allow them to bond. It is also critical that Zuri does not get spooked and accidentally kick her calf. So at this time only the keepers are entering the building as necessary and the pair is being monitored via cameras throughout the day and night.