MELBOURNE, Florida — The Brevard Zoo welcomed a baby Masai giraffe on February 6, 2013. The male giraffe was born to dad, Raffiki, and mom, Johari. The calf weighed in at 159 pounds, or 72 kilograms. Zoo officials say the mother and baby giraffe are doing well. In fact, just six days later, the calf weighs 170 pounds.
“The baby giraffe is doing very well,” said Trevor Zachariah, the veterinarian at Brevard Zoo. “A physical exam and various diagnostics were performed within the first 24 hours after birth, which confirmed he was a male and in good health. He had some mild weakness in one of his legs for the first two days, but that is now resolved,” said Zachariah.
According to Michelle Smurl, director of the Animal and Conservation Programs at Brevard Zoo, Johari and calf will remain behind the scenes until it is determined by animal staff that the calf is ready to mingle with the herd.
This is the fifth birth for Johari, said Smurl. Other offspring include Melvin, 7, who went to the Metro Richmond Zoo; Stephanie, 5, who now resides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; Joey, 3, and his one-and-a-half year old sister, Zanibou, both reside at Brevard Zoo. Milenna, the Zoo’s other Masai giraffe, gave birth to a male, Rafeano, in April of 2011, and he remains on
exhibit at Brevard Zoo.
The last published captive management plan (2010) noted there were 92 Masai giraffe (41 males; 51 females) at 24 Association of Zoo and Aquarium institutions. The target population size designated by the Antelope and Giraffe Taxon Advisory Group, the group designated with overseeing captive hoofstock in the Association of Zoo and Aquarium facilities, is 150.
Generally there are three types of giraffe species in zoological facilities. They are commonly referred to as Reticulated, Rothschild and Masai. The Masai species has historically represented a smaller population in zoos.
The Brevard Zoo says that poaching, human population growth and habitat loss continue to have an impact on the giraffe’s distribution across the African continent. It has been recorded that giraffe numbers have declined by one-third in the last decade alone. Through an in-house small conservation grant program Brevard Zoo has contributed funds to support giraffe field conservation projects.
The Masai giraffe has jagged spots on its body and the dominant male’s spots tend to be darker in color than those of other members of the herd. Adult Masai giraffe males can reach a height of more than 19 feet; females tend to be a bit shorter. An adult giraffe heart can weigh up to 25 pounds. Both male (bulls) and female (cows) giraffe can live to about 25 years in the wild and longer in captivity. The world’s tallest land animal will use its hooves to protect young. Lions have succumbed to the defensive kick of an adult giraffe.
PHOTO CREDIT: Brevard Zoo