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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — One minute into Friday morning, Oklahoma City Zoo’s newest giraffe was born to the Zoo’s 20-year-old Ellie, a veteran of six births so far. The calf has yet to be named.

According to giraffe caretakers, Ellie’s water broke around 10:40 a.m. and she was in active labor until the calf’s birth at 12:01 p.m. By 1:13 p.m. the calf was standing and attempting to nurse.

Giraffes aren’t small at any age. The newborn hours-old baby is 6’1″ tall and weighs about 157 pounds. The gestation period for giraffes is 15 months.

Julu, a five-year-old daughter of the mother, is also pregnant and is expected to give birth soon.

“Witnessing Ellie and Julu experience pregnancy together has been the greatest joy and we’re thrilled to watch our herd grow with the addition of this little calf,” said OKC Zoo’s Curator of Hoofstock and Primates, Tracey Dolphin-Drees.

“This birth is critical for the conservation of this endangered species and a true testament to the importance of the Zoo’s involvement in collaborative breeding efforts.”

Zoo officials said that if the weather permits, the newborn calf and his mother will be allowed into the giraffe habitat yard over the weekend.

Giraffe conservation

Giraffes are listed as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature with only 111,000 remaining in the wild, an almost 40% decline since the 1980s.

The population decline is due to poaching and habitat destruction.

The Zoo has contributed to giraffe conservation for decades by supporting the Northern Rangelands Trust and the Giraffe Conservation Fund, as well as becoming a member of AZA’s Giraffe Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) partner organization in 2018.

Ellie, the mother, arrived at the Zoo in 2008 from the Birmingham Zoo, in Birmingham, Alabama.

The calf’s father, Demetri, arrived from the Fossil Rim in Glen Rose, Texas, in 2018, as part of a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Giraffe Species Survival PlanTM (SSP). SSPs are cooperative, long-term management programs designed to maintain genetically viable and geographically stable populations of specific species. The Zoo is also home to two-year-old female, Mashamba.

Just in time

This birth comes just in time for the Zoo’s World Giraffe Day celebration on Monday, June 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Oklahoma City Zoo is currently in its summer hours and open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last entry no later than 4 p.m. Purchase advance tickets at www.okczoo.org/tickets and avoid the entry lines.

Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner.

Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free.


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Last Updated June 5, 2021, 7:46 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor