The Virginia Zoo welcomed a male Masai Giraffe calf on October 13, 2018. This is the first baby for mom Noelle, who is five years old, and the sixth calf for dad Billy.
Noelle gave birth during the early morning hours in her indoor enclosure. Zoo keepers had been monitoring Noelle throughout her pregnancy, and in preparation for the calf’s impending birth, extra bedding was added to her stall to soften the calf’s delivery (Giraffes give birth standing up).
Within an hour or two of birth, most Giraffe calves can stand, walk, and nurse on their own. However, this calf got an unusually slow start, which caused concern among the staff. Though the calf did finally stand and walk a few hours after birth, he was not observed to nurse in the first 24 hours after his arrival. After Veterinary and Animal Care Staff assessed the situation and consulted with Giraffe experts at other zoos, they decided to temporarily separate mom and baby and begin supportive care, which included a regimen of antibiotics and intravenous fluids.
The calf’s neck was shaved to accommodate his medical procedures. At birth, the calf weighed 123 pounds, and stands just under 6 feet tall. He has not yet been named.
Zoo staff have monitored the calf around the clock since his birth and continue to provide supportive care and supplemental feedings. They report that the calf appears to be gaining strength. He spends time with his mother each day so the two can bond and to encourage nursing.
“We’re hopeful that the calf will continue to respond to treatment,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “I’m confident our staff is providing the best care for the newborn and we’ll just have to be patient with the process.”
Masai Giraffes are one of four species and five subspecies of Giraffe found in Africa. Male Giraffes can grow up to 18 feet tall and weigh between 1,800 and 4,300 pounds. Females are between 13 and 15 feet tall and weigh between 1,200 and 2,600 pounds. Giraffes are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
See more photos of the calf below.