Our new baby giraffe meets the outside world
Monday 18 October 2004
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park has had some exciting news in the form of a beautiful male giraffe calf. Born at a staggering five foot eight, this reticulated giraffe birth is a major achievement for the Zoological Society of London
This is the first reticulated giraffe birth at Whipsnade in three years and after a pregnancy of 15 months mother, Ellie, gave birth to her healthy male calf on Saturday 9th October at 2.45pm. As soon as her labour started, Ellie found an area of soft hay to stand on; three foot is a long way to fall! The calf's feet appeared first, then the head, followed by the shoulders and rest of its body. Ellie's labour was fairly long, but after two and a half hours, the young male emerged fit and healthy, fully equipped with huge brown eyes and 60s style eyelashes! He was standing within 45 minutes and suckling in no time.
This is the seventh calf to be born at Whipsnade, each of which have become valuable additions to the International captive breeding programme set up to protect this majestic species. Bruno, the calf's father came over from the Czech Republic last year, to ensure that genetic diversity within the Whipsnade group is maintained, just as it would be in the wild. After a couple of years it is likely that this youngster will move on to pastures new to breed with giraffes held in other zoos around Europe.
Reticulated giraffes differ from other sub-species primarily in their markings. They are characterised by their skin pattern which is made up of a network of large polygons separated by clearly defined cream-colored lines, rather like a large white net thrown over dark coloured ground, hence the name "reticulated" giraffe. Other giraffe species have more subtle, less defined coat patterns
In the wild, reticulated giraffes are confined to north-eastern Kenya, eastern Sudan and Eritrea. While it is illegal to hunt giraffe in most African countries, poaching still occurs. Giraffes are killed for food and for their long black tail hairs which are often used to make souvenirs. It is likely that with continued human population growth, wild giraffes may eventually be found only within the confines of Africa's national parks. It is vital therefore, that a healthy captive population of these animals is maintained while we still have time.
- Giraffes are the tallest land animal in the world
- Giraffes were originally thought to be a cross between a camel and a leopard, hence the Latin name, Giraffa camelopardalis
- Apart from humans giraffes' only predators are crocodiles and lions
- Highly selective browsers feeding primarily on a variety of Acacia and Combretum species Although mostly leaves and shoots are taken, giraffe also eat flowers, vines and herbs. An average of 16-20 hours per day are spent feeding and up to 140 lbs of fresh browse are taken
- The long, prehensile, muscular tongue of the giraffe (which can be extended up to 18 inches), the thick, gluey saliva, and special upper palate shape enable the giraffe to process thorny foods. They are ruminants with a 4-chambered stomach
- Their very long necks are an adaptation to feeding at high levels in the treetops
- Giraffes can run at speeds up to 35 mph.