At 4:30 a.m., the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed the first giraffe calf born at the facility in nearly 20 years. Mother Zuri gave birth to her calf in a behind-the-scenes area in the Heart of Africa region on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Zuri, an 8-year-old female Masai giraffe, came to Columbus in 2013 after living at The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio, and the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, Texas, where she was born. Father, 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 Zuri was based on a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for giraffes.
“I am extremely proud of our dedicated animal care team members, who — due to the incredible bonds they share with the animals — have been able to provide top quality care around the clock to both Cami and Zuri throughout their pregnancies, with additional support from our wonderful volunteers,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf. “We certainly have a lot to celebrate with the arrival of this calf, and we also look forward to welcoming (Cami’s) calf soon as these births mark an important achievement in helping to protect the future of giraffes.”
In the midst of all of the excitement about the birth of Zuri’s calf, the Heart of Africa team is also monitoring 6-year-old female Masai giraffe, Cami, for the arrival of her calf.
Cami came to the Columbus Zoo in 2013 from the Nashville Zoo in Tennessee. The pregnancy was also a result of an SSP breeding recommendation with Enzi.
The sex of the calf is not yet known. Both mothers, as well as Zuri’s calf, are being closely monitored by the zoo’s animal care staff via camera monitors, and Cami’s calf appeared to be growing steadily on her most recent ultrasound conducted by the zoo’s animal health team. Zuri’s calf appears to be thriving as well.
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.
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.
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.
Additionally, the Columbus Zoo and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado are the co-founders of the giraffe plasma bank and, along with several other collaborating zoos, work 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 several 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.
With its mission to lead an inspire by connecting people and wildlife, the zoo also remains committed to engaging the public to help increase awareness about these species and the actions we can all take to help protect them. In collaboration with National Geographic, livestream cameras were mounted in the zoo’s Heart of Africa hoofstock maternity suites to provide giraffe fans with the opportunity to observe Zuri and Cami progress throughout their pregnancies and the deliveries of their calves.
To watch the giraffe cam live feed, please visit: giraffebirthcam.com.
Home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 600 species from around the globe, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium leads and inspires by connecting people and wildlife. The zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Course. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also manages The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; annually contributing more than $4 million of privately raised funds to support conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.
Submitted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.