The Santa Barbara Zoo welcomed its newest resident earlier this month after one of their young female giraffes unexpectedly gave birth.
Audrey, the female Masai giraffe, gave birth to her son Daniel on Jan. 9 about 10 months after transferring from the Los Angeles Zoo. Officials measured the infant male giraffe Daniel at 5’9” and 106 lbs. upon birth and will keep him out of public view for several weeks.
According to Dean Noble, director of marketing at the Santa Barbara Zoo, officials were not expecting the birth because the mother lacked telltale signs of pregnancy.
“It was a surprise — giraffes can breed year-long,” Noble said. “She has been here for nine months and the gestation period is 14 months and it behooves them to hide their gestation period in nature so they will not be targeted by predators.”
Noble said the mother’s young age was also a reason that zookeepers attributed the mother’s weight gains to normal growth.
“We have no males in our herd here, only three females,” Noble said. “Plus she is still only a juvenile. Age four is when they usually breed and she will be three in February.”
Officials were forced to find alternative means to feed the baby giraffe after the mother refused to nurse the infant herself.
Noble said zookeepers are feeding the juvenile giraffe with a mixture of goat and cow’s milk during the nursing period.
“He is doing very well,” Noble said. “His mother would not feed him initially. We think mothers are the best care so we only step in when it is absolutely necessary, but we were able to find a woman with a goat who was willing to milk it for us.”
The public can become Giraffe Foster Feeders to help support the giraffe herd. A tax deductible donation of $50 helps with the cost of feeding Daniel and his family. Sponsors receive a photo of the baby giraffe as well as a giraffe fact sheet and recognition on the zoo’s Foster Feeder Board.
The Santa Barbara Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Until Daniel the giraffe is available for public viewing, information and updates can be found at www.santabarbarazoo.org.