Johannesburg Zoo has a giraffe calf!!!




For the first time in five years, the zoo has seen the birth of a giraffe calf. The last giraffe born at Johannesburg Zoo was the young bull, Bangkok, in 2006.

The recent birth took place in broad daylight at 9h00 on a cool, breezy, day. Gia, the new mother went into labour at 8h30, having contractions almost every three minutes for about 15 minutes and ten minutes later a healthy calf was born. Having such long legs and neck, the baby struggled to get up. The entire herd came close to greet the newborn, while the mother stood protectively over it, warning them by pushing them with her long neck. She encouraged her baby to get up by leeking and gently kicking it. After many attempts, the calf stood firmly three hours later, sought its mother's teats and successfully got milk. A calf needs to suckle a few times in the first day to get enough colostrum, necessary to boost its young immune system, otherwise it will be vulnerable to secondary infections. Once the calf had found its legs, the mother took it away to the other side of the enclosure, typical of giraffe. In the wild, cows will isolate themselves from the herd, with their new calf soon after birth. The zoo expects the pair to spend most time alone during the first week.

During the second week, the calf will spend more time standing and exploring its environment and feed on milk every 3 hours. It will continue on milk for 4 months when its diet will include browse. The calf will be weaned at 12 months and become independent from its mother.

A giraffe calf usually weighs about 100kg at birth, however we are unsure of its weight at this point. We can only weigh it later and confirm its gender in about three days, during neonatal checks.

The zoo's herd will now consist of five giraffe, two bulls (Jerry, who is the father and Bangkok, who is also Jerry's son), two females viz. Buhle and Gia, the new mother and her calf. Their living arrangement will also change, with the two bulls confined to the night rooms for few days to give Gia and baby a chance to bond. The pair will be monitored around the clock to make sure that mother and baby stay healthy and safe.

2011 will go down at the zoo as the year of giraffe calves as the zoo expects another baby in about December 2011. Buhle has been pregnant since September 2010, with gestation lasting 15 months.

Prepared and issued by Letta Madlala, Brand & Communications Manager on behalf of the Johannesburg Zoo. END.

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