Birth of a giraffe calf
Since last Thursday, our small herd of Rothschild’s giraffes (Giraffa Camelopardalis rothschildi) has a new member: Aurele, 58kg and first calf of 6-year-old mum Pauline, is doing well. This is the twenty-fifth giraffe birth at La Palmyre Zoo.
Pauline’s first parturition was a bit long and tiring but she has proved to be very attentive and protective with her calf. Both are bonding well and are currently kept inside the building: we indeed want to make sure that the other giraffes are smoothly getting used to the calf and that he remains steady on his legs before going out safely. In the meantime, mother and calf can be seen behind the window of the giraffe house.
Females become sexually mature at 4-5 years of age but don’t usually give birth to their first calf before turning 5 or 6. The gestation lasts about fifteen months. Twin births, although extremely rare, can sometimes occur. Thanks to the mother’s fat and protein-rich milk, the calf grows very fast: more than 20 centimeters during the course of its first month! At 6 month-old the calf has already grown by 1 meter. In the wild, calves begin to eat solid food at about 3 weeks old and start ruminating after 2 months. They are fully weaned at about 1-year-old.
The total wild population of giraffes is now estimated at less than 80,000 individuals, against 140,000 in 1998. There are 9 subspecies, mostly distributed in about 20 countries in southern and central/east Africa. The Rothschild giraffe, who lives in northern Uganda, southern Sudan and western Kenya, has fewer than 1,500 specimens in the wild. It is classified “endangered” on the UICN Red List, threatened by habitat loss for expanding cropland and pasture, by poaching, by recurrent droughts and armed conflicts in some areas of its range.