On August 31, 2022, the Columbus Zoo in Columbus, Ohio, was ecstatic to introduce the newest member of their animal family - a baby Masai giraffe. At 2:45 pm, the male was born, and while it took a few attempts for him to get his legs under him, he was off and running straight to nurse from his mom, Zuri. The birth signifies a significant achievement since the species has been declared endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
An estimated 35,000 mature individuals of the subspecies are left in the wild, mainly in Kenya and Tanzania. The loss of their habitat and human interference, like poaching, are part of the reasons for their decreasing population. The Masai giraffe is also known as the Kilimanjaro Giraffe. One distinguishing factor from other subspecies is the males have jagged spots instead of the polygonal spots. It is an incredibly exciting achievement for the population and the Zoo since this is their 23rd giraffe birth. The 12-year-old giraffe mom has given birth to one other calf, Ralph, in 2020. Zuri has been living at the Columbus Zoo since 2013. She and the father of the babies, Enzo, were paired together through a specific program, the Species Survival Plan, that helps endangered species maintain their genetic diversity while being in the care of humans. The Zoo's dedication to giraffes does not just stop there. They have raised more than $279,000 for giraffe conservation initiatives and founded a giraffe plasma bank to aid giraffes in times of need.
Now that Zuri has given birth to her new baby boy, she will spend quality time with him to bond and teach him everything he needs to know. Guests will not be able to see the baby and his mom just yet as they will be living in the Giraffe Barn, allowing the baby to be introduced to other herd members slowly. The Care Team reported that "Zuri is being a great mother," as they observed her through camera monitors. She had lots of time to prepare as giraffes have a gestation period of 15 months. When they are born, calves are already six feet tall! Then, the males will grow to around 19.5 feet tall, and the females will be between 16 and 18 feet tall. With their newborns, giraffes create a daycare system. It is really a thrilling time for the Columbus Zoo right now.
Each step at helping this endangered species goes a long way. For now, it is of the utmost importance that mom and baby get to rest, bond, and spend quality time with each other. Stay tuned to see what the Zoo decides to name the new giraffe calf.