The Santa Barbara Zoo’s Masai giraffe Audrey has given birth to a calf, and the two are currently bonding, off view to the public, in the Giraffe Barn. Audrey, aged eight, gave birth to the calf on March 26 at 9:28pm in the Zoo’s Giraffe Barn after approximately five hours of labor.
The calf will have its first medical exam Sunday or Monday when height, weight, general health and sex will be assessed by the Zoo’s animal care team and vet staff. The results of the exam will determine when the calf will leave the Barn. Until that time, Audrey and the newborn calf are not on view to the public or available to media. The calf has not been named yet.
The Zoo’s giraffe herd is part of the population of 120 Masai giraffes that live at 28 North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Michael, the calf’s sire, is considered the most genetically valuable male Masai giraffe in captivity, because he has few relatives in zoos other than his offspring born here at the Zoo, which now numbers five.
“Michael’s genetics greatly help the diversity of the North American Masai population,” said Sheri Horiszny, director of animal care. “Every Masai giraffe born here is critical to keeping the gene pool robust.”
This is the fourth birth for Audrey at the Zoo. Her last calf, Buttercup, born in November 2014, is currently part of the Zoo’s giraffe herd. The Zoo’s other female giraffe, Betty Lou, is also pregnant, and is expected to give birth in July 2016. This is her third pregnancy and her other offspring are at other accredited zoos as part of a cooperative breeding program of the AZA’s Species Survival Plan (see below). Giraffes have a 14.5-month gestation period. Audrey is sponsored by the Dreier Family.
Support the Herd
The public can help the Zoo welcome this long-necked arrival by becoming a Foster Feeder sponsor of the giraffe calf. A donation of $50 helps with the cost of feeding the growing giraffe family. New giraffe Foster Feeders receive a baby photo of the calf along with a certificate, giraffe fact sheet, and recognition on the Zoo’s Foster Feeder board. For information, visit www.sbzoo.org.
About the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Giraffes
Audrey and Betty Lou arrived in Santa Barbara in March 2010, from the Los Angeles Zoo. Betty Lou was born at the San Diego Zoo on August 2, 2007, and Audrey was born on February 6, 2008 at the Los Angeles Zoo. Michael arrived from Parc Safari in Quebec, Canada, in January 2012.
Besides the new calf and Buttercup, Audrey’s other offspring include Dane, a male calf, born on April 18, 2014, who currently resides at the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas. She was also the mother of “surprise calf” Daniel, born in January 2011. Unknown to anyone, she was pregnant when she arrived at the Zoo, and gave birth to Daniel just short of her third birthday, which is extremely young for giraffes. She refused to nurse, so Daniel was hand-reared by Zoo staff. Daniel died in October 2012 after being anesthetized for a dental procedure to treat a life-threatening abscess and infection in his lower left jaw. Though his procedure went well, he went into respiratory arrest and could not be revived.
Betty Lou gave birth to a female giraffe, Sunshine, in April 2013, just 10 days after Dane was born. Sunshine has moved to the Phoenix Zoo as part of the AZA program. Her most recent calf, Asha, was born in March 2015 and has recently moved to the Toledo Zoo.
There are an estimated 37,000 Masai giraffes in Kenya and Tanzania, but a more thorough census is required. They are at risk due to poaching and habitat loss and degradation. Giraffes are the tallest land mammal, and the Masai is the largest subspecies, growing up to 17 feet tall and weighing 2,700 pounds.