There’s a New Gal in Town
Phoenix Zoo Welcomes a Baby Giraffe
text by Fiona Clarke photos courtesy of Phoenix Zoo
On June 26, Phoenix Zoo welcomed a female baby Masai giraffe. “The baby giraffe is doing incredibly well as is Imara, her very protective mother,” says Liesl King, manager of hoofstock at Phoenix Zoo. “She has a great personality and is very curious. She enjoys coming close to the keepers while they are in the barn tending to her and we’ve managed to capture pretty incredible video and photos – all six feet of her!”
Imara, a seven-year-old Masai giraffe, arrived at the Phoenix Zoo in 2012 and bred with a nine-year-old male Masai giraffe, Miguu, who arrived from the Los Angeles Zoo two years earlier.
“This baby marks the second Masai giraffe birth that we have had in the past year, and it is a very important birth for giraffes,” says Bert Castro, President & CEO, Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/ Phoenix Zoo. “Over the past 30 years, there has been a nearly 40-percent decrease of their population in the wild due to habitat destruction and poaching. We are excited we can add to this vulnerable species through the Species Survival Plan and are looking forward to seeing her and her mother, Imara, out on the Savanna in the coming weeks.”
Mom and the new baby will remain in the giraffe barn, an off-exhibit area, until the calf is old enough to be introduced to other animals and roam the Zoo’s Savanna habitat. “While guests will not be able to see the calf for a few weeks,” says Linda Hardwick, director of communications for Phoenix Zoo, “we will continue to post videos and updates on social media and will let people know when the new mother and her baby are ready to make a public appearance.”
THE SPECIES GIRAFFA
The giraffe, native to Africa, is an even-toed hoofed mammal and has the distinction of being the tallest living terrestrial animal. The giraffe’s chief distinguishing characteristics are its extremely long neck and legs, its horn-like protrusions and its distinctive coat patterns.
There are four separate species of giraffe which are then divided into nine subspecies.The Masai subspecies, the largest-bodied giraffe, is distinguished by jagged spots on its body. Its geographic range includes southern Kenya, all of Tanzania and the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.
In the wild, giraffes inhabit savannas and woodlands. Their food source is leaves, fruits and flowers of woody plants, primarily acacia species, which they browse at heights most other herbivores cannot reach.
Giraffes live in herds of related females and their offspring, or bachelor herds of unrelated adult males, but are gregarious and may gather in large aggregations. Females bear the sole responsibility for raising the young.
The species is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “Vulnerable to Extinction.” Although extinct from many parts of its former range, giraffes are still found in game reserves and parks. As noted in Nature, an international weekly Journal of Science, the 2016 estimations indicate that there are approximately 80,000 members of Giraffa in the wild, with around 1,144 in captivity.
THE NAME GAME
Although it will still be a few weeks until the pair will be introduced to the public, the Zoo is asking for help in choosing a name for the female baby Masai giraffe.
“In honor of her mother Imara, which means “strength” in Swahili, the Giraffe keepers came up with six Swahili-themed names,” says Hardwick. “And now it is up to the public to vote for their favorite. Voting will end on Sunday, July 29 at midnight and the name will be announced the week of the July 30.”
Which Swahili name is your favorite?
Asili (Swahili for nature)
Jasiri (Swahili for brave)
Kivuli (Swahili for shadow)
Mwishowe (Swahili for finally/eventually)
Nyusi (Swahili for eyebrows)
Subira (Swahili for patience)
Rafiki (Swahili for friend)