Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Shani the Masai Giraffe is Pregnant

The Sacramento Zoo is excited to announce that Shani the Zoo’s female Masai Giraffe is pregnant with her first calf. Based on breeding behavior and gestation length it is estimated that she will give birth in November or December.

“The Zoo is overjoyed that Shani is pregnant, the last time there was a giraffe birth at the Sacramento Zoo was in the 1980’s,” said Mary Healy, Zoo Director/CEO. “Shani and Chifu, the Zoo’s two Masai Giraffes, were brought to the Zoo with the hope that they would become the nucleus of a new herd to support the genetic diversity of the North American Masai Giraffe population.”

The Sacramento Zoo is home to five giraffes: three female Reticulated Giraffes, one male Masai (Chifu) and one female Masai (Shani). In 2010, the Zoo completed renovations on the giraffe exhibit that includes a state-of-the-art, heated, block barn that is fully equipped for the birth of calves.

The Masai Giraffe is the largest giraffe subspecies and is found in southern Kenya and Tanzania. In addition to a difference in size, Reticulated and Masai Giraffes tend to have slightly different spots - a Masai giraffe's spots are usually darker and irregular in shape. Gestation is 14 to 15 months with the female giving birth alone in a secluded spot free from predators. When a calf is born, it can be as tall as six feet and weigh 150 pounds. Within minutes, the baby is able to stand on its own.

Shani and Chifu are two of fewer than 100 Masai Giraffes in institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Observation of giraffes in zoos has helped field researchers to recognize physical characteristics and social behaviors in the wild. The Sacramento Zoo partners with the Wild Nature Institute, a field research group that is currently studying Masai Giraffe demographics and the African Savanna ecosystem with photo recognition software. The study, which includes more than 1,500 Masai Giraffes, will allow researchers to follow the giraffes’ movements and reproduction habits in the wild in order to understand where and why their populations are declining.

Chifu and Shani