Giraffe

World Giraffe Day: When it comes to giraffe conservation, we take it personally

Auggie shows off his impressive height next to Katie

Dallas Zoo North Savanna Supervisor Lisa Fitzgerald, Assistant Supervisor Allison Dean, and Giraffe Keeper II Jessica Romano guest blog for ZooHoo!

Since 1998 the population of giraffes in Africa has dropped from 140,000 to less than 80,000 individuals. That’s only 80,000 wild giraffes left in the entire world! For comparison, there are more than 1.3 million people living in Dallas and over 200,000 people living in Oak Cliff alone.

Tebogo

As zookeepers at Dallas Zoo’s Giants of the Savanna habitat, we take giraffe conservation personally. We think giraffes are amazing and beautiful creatures. As keepers, we have the privilege of getting to know them as individuals and sharing in their daily lives. As wildlife conservationists, we want to ensure that the four species of giraffes not only survive, but thrive in the wild for eternity.

Why has the giraffe population dropped so dramatically? This is largely a situation created by us – humans. Prolonged civil wars in northeast Africa have created large populations of refugees, living in city sized refugee camps. Refugees seek protein sources and giraffes are large, easy targets.  Human population growth has also broken wildlife habitats into pieces, splitting giraffe populations into smaller groups that cannot recombine for breeding.

The Dallas Zoo partners with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) to provide monitoring of giraffe populations, procure and protect giraffe habitat, and seek workable solutions that identify and relieve threats to wild giraffes. As members and visitors, you help us support GCF’s efforts!

Want to do more? 

  • Spread the word! Most people don’t know giraffes are a threatened species. Ask your friends which of these wild populations is the smallest, elephant or giraffe? The answer is giraffe – there are approximately 350,000 elephants in Africa vs. 80,000 giraffes
  • Support conservation groups like the Giraffe Conservation Foundation
  • Take that life changing trip to Africa and see giraffes in the wild – you will also be supporting local economies and communities
  • Consider a working vacation to Africa – volunteer for a non-profit organization, like Earthwatch

    Chrystal and Katie

  • Contribute to efforts to aid and relocate refugees

Meet Dallas Zoo’s herd:

Auggie – our oldest giraffe is 14 years old. Also known as “Uncle Auggie” for his gentle and protective approach with calves.

Tebogo – our breeder and greeter. Tebogo is the father of the calves born in the Giants of the Savanna. He is people oriented and can be easily identified by his dark brown spots.

Jesse – our tallest giraffe. Measuring in at more than 17 feet, Jesse is a total sweetheart and Jade’s BFF.

Ferrell – everyone’s buddy and one of our most curious giraffes. He is always keeping a watchful eye on what is going on.

Five – a shy guy, but one of our most handsome giraffes. Five has a beautiful brown coat with thin white stripes.

Katie – our most prolific mother. Katie is a beautiful giraffe with an even temperament and a slight sassy side.

Tsavo and Katie

Chrystal – “the diva.” Chrystal is our other mother and likes things her way.

Jade – “the princess.” Jade is very particular and sensitive; she likes compliments.

Betty – the “new girl in town.” Betty is our 2-year-old giraffe and has a warm personality when she isn’t getting into trouble.

Tsavo – “the baby.” Tsavo is Katie’s third calf here at Dallas Zoo and is the newest addition to our herd. While still growing into his personality, we can already tell he is going to be a lot of fun! He’s got his mama’s good looks and his dad’s rambunctious spirit. Tsavo is quite curious about his keepers and the rest of the herd. When he isn’t following mom around, Tsavo enjoys running and exploring. An affectionate little guy, he likes to nuzzle the other adults and will often give them good morning kisses through the stalls. Tsavo’s already nibbling on bits of browse, and bamboo, in particular, seems to be his favorite. Guests can now see Tsavo out in the giraffe feeding yard with mom and other herd members.

Happy World Giraffe Day from the Dallas Zoo giraffe herd and their keepers! Thank you for loving giraffes as much as we do.

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Giraffe | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

World-famous giraffe Katie welcomes baby boy

We are elated to share that our beloved giraffe Katie gave birth to a healthy male calf on Tuesday, May 30, at approximately 1:45 p.m. As of Thursday morning, when the zoo’s veterinary team conducted a well-baby checkup, the almost 6-foot baby weighed in at about 150 lbs.

Katie and her new bouncing baby boy are doing very well, following what was a by-the-book, hour-long delivery. The calf has spent his first few days learning how to nurse and following mom around their area.

Katie lovingly nudges her new baby boy, born on Tuesday afternoon.

“We consider ourselves so lucky to get to welcome this (big) little guy to the world here at the Dallas Zoo,” said Harrison Edell, the Dallas Zoo’s vice president of animal operations and welfare. “Katie brought this calf into the world like a pro, and we continue to be amazed at how quickly this baby giraffe is taking to his surroundings and learning his way with Katie there to guide him.”

Now, at 9 years old, Katie has welcomed three calves with ease – two females, and now her first male. An excellent, proven mother, Katie will remain with her calf for the next few weeks as they bond behind the scenes.

The baby will then meet the truest gentle giant of them all – Uncle Auggie. Our oldest and most patient giraffe, Auggie is typically the first to meet new calves. And eventually, the calf will join the rest of the herd in the giraffe feeding yard.

We’re giving the honor of naming the baby giraffe to the zoo team that took such stellar care of mom during her pregnancy and are now caring for the newest addition to our giraffe herd. We’ll announce his name prior to the calf making his public debut.

The calf’s father, Tebogo, is one of the most popular giraffes at the Dallas Zoo. Matched with Katie on an Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding recommendation, the two were paired together to ensure appropriate breeding and genetic diversity in North America.

“Welcoming this baby giraffe to the Dallas Zoo is yet another milestone in what has been a very exciting year for us,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo’s president and CEO. “We look forward to sharing the adorable awkwardness and cute baby face of the giraffe calf with our visitors. But we also want our guests to know how critical a role accredited zoos have in conservation efforts, as we try to help maintain the species’ existence given the numbers in the wild are diminishing so rapidly.”

Unfortunate news hit the giraffe population in late 2016 – the International Union for Nature and Conservation downgraded the species status from “least concern,” skipped the “near threatened” classification, and moved giraffes directly to the “vulnerable” category.

In the past 30 years, the giraffe population has suffered a nearly 40% drop due to human encroachment, poaching and habitat loss. It’s believed there are fewer than 97,000 individuals in the wild – scarcer than even African elephants.

And for reticulated giraffes, the subspecies we care for here at the zoo, only 4,700 remain. This all amounts to what researchers are calling a silent extinction for the tallest and longest-necked animal in the kingdom.

The Dallas Zoo proudly supports the Reticulated Giraffe Project and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) by funding efforts to monitor giraffes and remove snares in Uganda. We also help GCF raise anti-poaching awareness in African communities.

 

The more you know…

The Dallas Zoo’s new giraffe calf has been active and exploring since just after his birth on Tuesday.

We know you’ll have questions, so we thought we’d try to answer a few here –

  • How are Katie and the baby doing?  Both are healthy and doing very well. The calf has been right on schedule with his activities, standing, nursing, and showing a curiosity to explore – just as we want to see.
  • Was it an easy delivery?  Yes, Katie was in labor for less than an hour and all went as expected.
  • When will you be able to see the calf on exhibit?   It will likely be several weeks before he’s out on exhibit. Watch the zoo’s social channels for updates.
  • What is the calf’s name?  We’ll let you know soon! Once the team here at the zoo decides on the name, we’ll announce it.
  • Will the public have a chance to help name the baby giraffe?  We’re going to give our giraffe team the honor of naming the calf.
  • What has the zoo done to the exhibit to make sure it’s safe given what happened with Kipenzi?  We have modified the entry gate system and enhanced the fencing within the exhibit for additional protection for the whole giraffe herd. We believe these measures will help mitigate the possibility of an inadvertent injury in the exhibit.

Katie captured hearts in 2015 with first-ever “Giraffe Birth Live”

Katie received worldwide attention in 2015 when she delivered calf Kipenzi during a remarkable, first-ever live streamed birth on Animal Planet and Animal Planet L!VE web cameras. Millions of people around the world fell in love with Katie and her calf – the birth drew more than 2 million streams on APL.tv, and the “Giraffe Birth Live” TV special drew 1.4 million viewers.

The live project turned millions into devout, loyal giraffe fans. From admirers making their support permanent with giraffe tattoos, to flying across the world to meet Katie and Kipenzi in person, the impact this mother-daughter duo had was immeasurable.

This time around, we decided to not live stream Katie’s delivery. While some of Katie’s fans were sad to not be able to tune in for 24-hour access to the birth, we didn’t want to try to recreate the magic of the first “Giraffe Birth Live.”

Sadly, Kipenzi passed away in July 2015 following a tragic accident. After Kipenzi’s death, the Dallas Zoo and Animal Planet received hundreds of thousands of messages of sympathy and gratefulness for the unprecedented project. An outpouring of support from her fans led to nearly $100,000 in donations for giraffe conservation and other wildlife conservation efforts around the world.

Come visit our now 10-member giraffe herd, which roams the award-winning Giants of the Savanna, the only U.S. zoo habitat where giraffes and elephants mingle alongside other African species. In 2015, the habitat was named USA Today’s No. 3 “Best Zoo Exhibit” in the nation.

 

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Giraffe, Mammals | Leave a comment

10 reasons why we refuse to let giraffes face a silent extinction

There are fewer giraffes left in the wild than African elephants. Let that sink in. Today is World Giraffe Day, and the earth’s tallest and longest-necked animal is facing extinction, but we bet you didn’t know that.

Africa wouldn’t look the same without the iconic giraffe roaming the bush. With fewer than 80,000 giraffes left in the wild — a 40% drop in the past 15 years — seeing these remarkable animals in the wild may not be possible in years to come.

It’s a silent extinction that needs deafening attention. Here are 10 reasons why we refuse to let one of the animal kingdom’s most unique creatures disappear:

IMG_6074 Mix Giraffe Elephant CS-rumbling
• Humans rarely hear them, but giraffes do indeed vocalize. If lucky enough, you can hear them grunting, lowing and bellowing. But most impressively, they vocalize in infrasonic frequencies that we can’t hear. Infrasonic communications carry over long distances.
 

Nicole Leonard FB-splaying
• They drink water like no other. Since their necks are too short to reach the ground (go figure!), these leggy animals awkwardly splay their front legs, or kneel to allow their necks to reach below. True talent. (Image credit: Nicole Leonard)
 
Katie and baby 3 4x6-markings
• Giraffes rock one of nature’s most beautiful spotted coats. Within all nine giraffe subspecies, each individual’s markings are as unique as our fingerprints. The reticulated giraffe subspecies, which you’ll find at our Zoo, sports a dark coat with a beautiful web of fine white lines.
 

IMG_8167-giraffe-CB-neck
• Despite their distinctive and extraordinary necks, giraffes surprisingly have only seven neck vertebrae – the same number as humans. Each vertebrae is lengthy, measuring up to 10 inches long.
 

Auggie feed kid CS-tongue
• Don’t judge a tongue by its color (said no mom ever). Giraffes’ funky tongues range from black to blue to purple. It’s believed that the dark coloration protects it from sun damage, since they spend the majority of their day eating with their tongues out. Their prehensile tongues can measure up to 20 inches long!
 

IMG_2201 Katie, Jamie and Kipenzi CS-calfdrop
• Giraffe calves experience the longest drop to the ground than any other animal when born – about 6 feet! These babies are naturally wired to stand up within an hour of birth and begin running shortly after. (A running baby has a better chance of not being a predator’s dinner.)
 

IMG_7043-Okapi
• The giraffe’s only living relative is the elusive okapi. Known as the “forest giraffe,” okapi are only found in the dense rainforests of the Congo. The two species are similar in body shape, although okapi have a much shorter neck.
 

Auggie with a stick CS-eyes
• Their eyes are about the size of golf balls. Mind blown.
 

Katie and Jamie Aug. 2011-heart
• Giraffes have super-sized hearts (because they care so much). But really, their hearts are two feet long and weigh up to 25 pounds – the largest of any land mammal. They have a highly specialized cardiovascular system due to their unusual shape. Their hearts can pump about 15 gallons of blood around its body every minute at a blood pressure twice that of an average human. (Source: GCF)
 

IMG_2170 Kipenzi sitting CS-sitting
• Vertical sleeping beauties: Giraffes usually snooze while standing up. They occasionally drop to a vulnerable sitting position on the ground for quick naps. (You’ll often see our eight giraffes sitting down – it’s a sign they feel safe in our care.)

Sadly, giraffes are already extinct in at least seven African countries. And the Rothschild’s giraffe subspecies is actually more endangered than giant pandas. Africa’s gentle giants need our help.

Our partners at the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) work tirelessly in the field every day to protect these majestic animals. We’re proud to help fund GCF’s efforts to monitor giraffes and remove snares in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda, home to more than 90% of the wild population of the Rothschild’s giraffe.

Learn more about how we’re helping save giraffes with GCF, and please consider donating directly to GCF on this special day dedicated to one of the coolest animals.

Categories: Conservation, Giraffe | 1 Comment

10 animals who wear fall well

Forget the flannel, cable-knit sweaters, and scarves – no one knows fall style better than the animal kingdom. We’re laying down some fall fashion with 10 animals who make this season look better than ever.

1. African crowned cranes rock autumn’s trendiest hairdo like fall royalty. They sport a golden crown of feathers atop their head, distinguishing them from other cranes. Their red neck wattle adds a nice splash of color, too.

African Crowned Crane2. A creature that resembles a large, ripe tomato deserves a major autumn accolade. Tomato frogs are brightly colored to warn predators that they’re not good to eat – but we think they’re juicily good-looking.

_MG_9734 Tomato Frog CB3. Giraffes’ spotted coats prove nature has a sense of style. Within all nine giraffe subspecies, each individual’s markings are as unique as our fingerprints. The reticulated giraffe subspecies, which you’ll find at our Zoo, sports a dark coat with a beautiful web of fine white lines.

4. Because no other animal can model a bed of fall leaves as adorably as our African pygmy hedgehog. These tiny guys use their coat of spines to escape predators – they’ll curl up into a tight ball and their spines will raise, forming a protective barrier.

Hedgehog-African Pygmy5. African red river hogs got it goin’ on. From their striking coloration and prominent tassels on their ears, to the hairy white Mohawk running along their spine, these hogs wear fall like no other.

Red River Hog Hank6. Yellow and black has never looked so good. Amiright? Tiger salamanders’ colors and markings vary throughout their wide North American range, but their most common marking resembles the striped pattern of their big cat namesake.

Tiger Salamander7. Golden lion tamarins rock nature’s fieriest coat. These small monkeys get their name from their vibrant reddish-orange fur and the long hair round their face that forms a perfect mane.

IMG_1599 Golden Lion Tamarin CS8. The chestnut-breasted malkoha manages to flaunt every fall color flawlessly. Males and females have near identical plumage, and wear those red eye patches like bosses.

ChestnutBreastedMalkohaMilkyEyelashes9. Tigers totally own fall. Their symbolic stripes act as camouflage in high grasses or dense forests. Sumatran tigers, like our boy Kipling, have the darkest orange coat of any tiger subspecies.

Kipling10. Thanks to our fall-loving chimps, playing in foliage has never looked so good.

Categories: Birds, Chimpanzee, Giraffe, Mammals, Monkey, Reptiles and Amphibians, Tigers | Leave a comment

Mourning our beloved Kipenzi

(UPDATED JULY 31)

We’re overwhelmed by the love you’ve shown today for our little Kipenzi, and to our grieving staff. Because you’ve asked a few specific questions, we wanted to answer them here for you.

1. Are you reviewing what happened? Yes. We are conducting a very thorough review of the incident down to the smallest detail, to examine every aspect and ensure that every opinion is heard. While some members of the media have used the word “investigation,” we believe this implies that we have to figure out what happened, or assign blame, and this is not the case. We were fully staffed and they witnessed every moment except the exact second she hit the wall, so we know what happened; no policies or procedures appear to be violated. However, what we WILL do now, with relentless focus, is examine the accident from every angle to look for ways to keep this from happening again. No one wants to prevent this more than our staff.
2. Will you change the habitat? At this time, we have no plans to do so. The habitat is a world-class design that sets a standard that zoos around the world have followed. Kip was in the smaller area of the Giants of the Savanna because it was safer for her than the big space, where she could get up more speed and would have had to avoid more obstacles, including other animals. This was a tragic, heartbreaking accident, nothing more.
3. Then how was she injured? Calves of all species, from horses to cows to giraffes and gerenuks, love to run around wildly. (Like toddlers.) We can’t put bubble-wrap around them, as much as we’d like to. Yesterday when the Zoo closed, the adult giraffes shifted toward the barn, but Kip and big brother Kopano wanted to play more. They chased each other through the habitat and ran in big loops around it. They got to the end of the habitat and Kopano turned the right way, but Kip instead made a sharp turn into the wall. She was a calf; she played like a calf. This type of thing can happen with any hoofstock, cows and horses included – and in the wild, where giraffes will stumble into depressions, fall, and calves run into trees or even another giraffe.
4. How could that hurt her so badly? A necropsy by our veterinary team this morning confirmed that Kip died from a broken neck – again, unfortunately, not an uncommon injury in giraffes, simply because of the long, slender way their necks are built.
5. Should she have been allowed to run, and was the habitat too small? We were very cautious about allowing Kip (and Kopano and Jamie before her) to grow into the larger yards slowly. Yesterday was no different than any other day since May 1, when Kipenzi first went out. She had been exploring and running in that yard for three months, and that’s essential to her growth and development. We couldn’t pen her up in a small area, despite the risk that she might fall or run into something. However, she was in the feeding yard because it was overall a safer place for her – the large Savanna would have been much riskier. So she was in her “baby gate” kind of place when this unfortunate, freak accident occurred.
6. How are the keepers? Our whole staff, especially our giraffe team, is devastated. We all deeply loved Kipenzi, as you did, and are grieving. However, our team is dedicated, devoted and strong, and we have other animals to care for through our tears. Everyone came to work Wednesday, and even some who were off came in to be here with their colleagues. We brought in counselors to help staffers, too. We have received many condolence gifts, from food to flowers and beautiful artwork, and we appreciate that more than you know.
7. How is Katie, Kip’s mom? Katie is eating normally and is finding comfort from her best giraffe friends, Auggie and Jade. She remains in the barn with a private yard while keepers monitor her closely to be sure she continues to do well. She’ll go back into the large habitat when she indicates that she’s ready.
8. Is the rest of the herd mourning? They are acting normally. Giraffes, while social animals, aren’t as emotionally connected with each other as some other animals, like elephants, primates and whales. In the wild, they must constantly be on alert for predators, so they are hard-wired to move on quickly after the loss of a calf.
9. What happened at the Zoo the next day? Operations were completely normal, and the giraffe herd was out in both areas of the habitat. Nothing was different because this doesn’t seem to be a mistake or an error on anyone’s part. It was a terrible accident, and a not-uncommon one in hoofstock.
10. Will there be a memorial at the Zoo for Kipenzi? We are definitely considering how to best honor her memory. Because she was such a remarkable ambassador for her species and for conservation – helping to raise more than $35,000 for our partner in Africa, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation – we chose to first suggest donations to that group. (Donate here: www.giraffeconservation.org) We need time to figure out what other memorial we wish to set up, but we will keep you posted here.
11. Will you have more giraffe calves? We are part of the national Species Survival Plan for giraffes, and will continue to breed when recommended.
12. What is Kip’s legacy? Kipenzi was undoubtedly the most recognized giraffe in the world, and her birth live on Animal Planet captivated millions. From the anticipation of her arrival to her first moments standing and her introduction into the Savanna habitat, Kip continued to melt hearts and bring attention to her species, whose population in the wild has been reduced significantly in recent years. The supportive emails, tweets and Facebook posts we’ve received and responded to throughout Kip’s life could fill volumes – she truly was a household name, and people connected with her deeply.

When you voted for her name online, you were given an opportunity to donate to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Those donations raised $35,000 to help protect her “cousins” in Africa. Following her passing, Kip continues to bring awareness to her endangered species, and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation has been flooded with more donations in her honor to help the plight of giraffes. Kip’s gave the public a front-row seat into the delivery and care of giraffes, all while inspiring conversations about what we all can do to save them in the wild. We’ve heard from parents whose children were enthralled with seeing a live animal birth right from their living room, classrooms who started research projects on giraffes in the wild, and guests who flew across the country to see the giraffe who was an inspiration for all ages – the stories are incredible. We will always cherish the light Kip was to so many, and her role as an ambassador for conservation will not be forgotten.

13. Will you continue to update us? Yes, of course. We appreciate your support so much. And we operate from a position of transparency, because we’re proud of the work we do and how we provide for animals in our care. We will respond as much as we can, but please understand that given the enormous outpouring of love, it is difficult to respond individually. But know that we are reading every single comment, and that they are helping us get through this difficult time.

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Giraffe, Media, Social Media, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , | 63 Comments

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