CUMBERLAND – The Wilds is celebrating the birth of a Masai giraffe calf, who was born in the pasture during the early morning hours of Friday, Aug. 30.
Animal Management staff continues to monitor the calf, whose sex is currently unknown, and notes that the calf appears to be strong and is staying close to its mother, Savannah.
“The birth of rare species is always exciting, and with the recent news about the conservation status of Masai giraffe now listed as endangered, the birth of this calf is extra special,” said Dr. Jan Ramer, vice president of The Wilds. “We are extremely proud to play an active role in helping to protect the future of Masai giraffe by welcoming this sweet calf and supporting wildlife conservation efforts that are having a direct and positive impact in protecting giraffe populations in their native ranges at a time where this work is more important than ever.”
The calf’s father, Raha, was born at the Los Angeles Zoo in April 2006 and arrived at The Wilds 10 years ago, where he has since sired seven calves. Savannah was born at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in August 2003 and has lived at The Wilds since 2004. Savannah is an experienced mother, and this calf is her fifth.
The breeding of Raha and Savannah was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program designed to increase the genetic health and diversity of threatened and endangered species in human care.
This calf is the 18th giraffe calf to be born at the conservation center. The birth is a significant achievement as the Masai giraffe’s conservation status, which was previously listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, was changed to “endangered” just a little more than one month ago.
The population of this giraffe subspecies is estimated to have plummeted by nearly 50 percent over three decades primarily due to habitat degradation and poaching. There are now only approximately 35,000 Masai giraffe remaining in their native ranges in southern Kenya and north and central Tanzania.
In an effort to reduce threats to giraffes, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds support several conservation projects in giraffe range countries across Africa, including Wild Nature Institute’s Serengeti Giraffe Conservation Research project based in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, the Giraffe Research and Conservation Trust in Kenya, and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation in Namibia and Uganda, as well as provide support for a giraffe specific initiative through the Hirola Conservation Programme in Kenya.
Calves are born after a gestation period of approximately 15 months. The mother gives birth standing up, and within a few hours of birth, calves can stand and run on their own.
Male giraffes can grow to be 18 feet tall at their horn tips and weigh between 1,800 and 4,300 pounds. Females are between 13 and 15 feet tall and weigh between 1,200 and 2,600 pounds. Giraffes are the tallest of all extant land-living animal species, and are the largest ruminants.
Less than a week ago, The Wilds also welcomed a female greater one-horned rhinoceros calf, who was born at the conservation center on Aug. 24. The rhino calf is receiving excellent care from her mother, Sanya, and is the eighth greater one-horned rhino to be born at The Wilds. Greater one-horned rhinos nearly went extinct during the 20th century and thanks to some recent conservation successes, is now listed as “vulnerable” instead of “endangered” on the IUCN’s Red List.
The giraffe and rhino calves may be visible to guests during either an Open-Air Safari or Wildside Tour. The Wilds is currently open daily through September and then weekends only in October.
For more information about The Wilds or to book your visit, please visit https://thewilds.columbuszoo.org/home.