As part of the World Giraffe Day celebration on June 21, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced that they are expecting two Masai giraffe births in the coming months—the first giraffe births at the Zoo in nearly 20 years. The last calf born at the Zoo was in 1999.
The two expectant mothers are 8-year-old Zuri and 6-year-old Cami. Zuri came to Columbus in 2013 after being at The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio and the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, Texas, where she was born. Cami came to the Columbus Zoo in 2013 from the Nashville Zoo in Tennessee. Enzi is the 8-year-old breeding male Masai giraffe, and he arrived at the Columbus Zoo in 2013 after first being at The Wilds and the Toledo Zoo, where he was born. The pairing of Enzi with both Zuri and Cami was based on a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for giraffes.
Zuri’s calf is due sometime between late August and mid-September, and Cami’s calf is due between late September and mid-October. The sex of the calves is not yet known. Both mothers are being closely monitored by the Zoo’s animal care staff, and the calves appear to be healthy and growing steadily according to most recent ultrasounds conducted by the Zoo’s animal health team.
Nineteen giraffes have been born at the Columbus Zoo over the course of its history, but the two newest additions will be the first giraffes born in the Heart of Africa region since its opening in 2014. Giraffes typically have a gestation period of around 15 months and will give birth to the calf while standing up. Newborn calves can weigh anywhere from 100-150 pounds and are, on average, around 6 feet tall.
In addition to sharing the exciting pregnancy news and offering special giraffe conservation-themed activities for guests, the World Giraffe Day celebration also featured the Zoo’s first public plasma draw demonstration.
The Columbus Zoo and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado are the co-founders of the giraffe plasma bank and, now along with the Greenville Zoo in South Carolina, are the only zoological facilities that are currently able to consistently collect large volumes of plasma from giraffe to send to animals in need of a transfusion. These plasma transfusions have been responsible for assisting in saving the lives of several young giraffe across the country.
Plasma contains vital antibodies and critical proteins that can give a life-saving boost to the immune system of a young calf, which hasn’t been able to nurse and obtain the mother’s vital colostrum, or to a sick calf that needs additional help to fight off an infection.
Since 2017, the Columbus Zoo has been able to provide plasma to assist in saving the lives of four newborn giraffe at other zoos that were in need of a transfusion to survive. This work is only possible through the hard work and dedication of the animal care and animal health staff who have trained members of the giraffe herd to participate in these large volume blood draws completely awake and voluntarily. The program further exemplifies the level of trust that exists between the animal care team, the animal health team and the giraffes in the Heart of Africa region at the Zoo.
As a result of the Zoo’s specialization in this field, members of the animal care and animal health teams serve as experts in plasma draws and frequently share videos, host conferences, teach at workshops and provide facility tours to animal care and animal health staff from across the country to share their understanding of giraffe care.
“All of the elements of our World Giraffe Day celebration in the Heart of Africa region further demonstrate the tremendous advancements in animal health and animal care that our team at the Columbus Zoo has contributed to benefit wildlife,” said Columbus Zoo President/ CEO Tom Stalf. “We take great pride in the leadership and the dedication of our staff to provide the very best in animal care and welfare to the giraffes and other wildlife species to help protect their future.”
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a long-time supporter of several direct giraffe conservation initiatives and has raised a total of $191,825 for giraffe projects since 2002. The Zoo also provided a one-time $56,679 grant to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation through the Zoo’s Wine for Wildlife Fund-A-Need. The World Giraffe Day celebration at the Zoo is just one of the many ways that the Zoo strives to involve the public to raise awareness and additional funds for this important conservation effort.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species,™ giraffe populations are listed as vulnerable in their native range across southern and eastern Africa and are in decline due to various factors including habitat loss, civil unrest/military operations, poaching and ecological changes.
For more information about conservation initiatives at the Columbus Zoo, please visit: https://globalimpact.columbuszoo.org/about.
Submitted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.