A close-up of Witten with mom Chrystal in the background./May 3
It’s a name fit for a 5-foot-9, 145-pound male giraffe calf and, of course, a 15-year career-span football legend. The Dallas Zoo – which was named today as the nation’s 7th Best Zoo in the USA Today 10Best awards and our Simmons Hippo Outpost was voted as the 5th Best Zoo Exhibit – is paying tribute to one of the best tight ends in history, Jason Witten, by naming our giraffe calf after the retired football star.
“We’re shifting from our typical tradition of naming a baby after its native heritage to honor a Texas legend and all around great guy,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo’s president and CEO. “Our zookeepers were the first ones to jump on this naming opportunity. We’re all huge fans of Jason, he’s a real role model – on the field and in our community.”
Witten was born on April 25 after a long two-and-a-half hour labor (giraffes usually labor and deliver within one to two hours). Second-time mom Chrystal successfully delivered the calf without intervention. Witten was standing, walking, and nursing within 45 minutes after birth.
Witten will make his public debut in the giraffe-feeding yard within the next one to two weeks (weather dependent, of course). He’ll be joined by mom Chrystal, other herd members – and maybe even Jason Witten and his family (the zoo said optimistically).
“One of the things we are proudly known for is our giraffe herd. From Animal Planet to Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, our giraffes have received a lot of limelight, so it’s fitting that we named our newest addition after one of football’s greatest,” said Harrison Edell, Dallas Zoo’s vice president of animal operations and welfare.
Witten’s father is Tebogo, one of the zoo’s most social and well-known residents. Tebogo is the only breeding male under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Giraffe Species Survival Plan’s (SSP) program to ensure genetic diversity within endangered species. Tebogo also is the father of the last four calves born at the Zoo.
In the wild, giraffes are facing what conservationists call a “silent extinction.” There are fewer than 80,000 wild giraffes left – a 40% drop in the past 15 years. The Dallas Zoo cares for the reticulated giraffe sub-species; it’s estimated there are less than 8,700 left in the wild. The Dallas Zoo contributes greatly to giraffe conservation projects in Africa to help this species recover.
We’re welcoming a long-legged baby born on April 25 to second-time mom Chrystal. This 5-foot-9, 130-pound giraffe calf arrived after a long two-and-a-half hour labor (giraffes usually labor and deliver within 1-2 hours!).
Nine-year-old Chrystal went into labor around 8:30 p.m. after keepers had gone home for the day. But during a scheduled 8:30 p.m. check-in via the barn’s closed-circuit cameras, they could see what appeared to be hooves emerging. A group of keepers and our on-call veterinarian headed into the Zoo to monitor the labor more closely.
Around 11 p.m., Chrystal calmly delivered her second calf – this time, without intervention. (You may remember when her first calf Kopano was born in 2014, vet staff intervened and helped deliver the baby after a long labor.)
After the baby dropped onto the soft sand, Chrystal immediately began cleaning its face, allowing the baby to take deep breaths. Once the calf sat up, Chrystal gently encouraged baby to stand. Following a few wobbly attempts on its new legs, the calf stood up only 20 minutes after birth. Shortly after, the calf got the hang of walking, and then nursed just 45 minutes after birth.
“Chrystal showed us once again that she’s a very attentive mother,” said Allison Dean, assistant supervisor of giraffes. “She’s been busy cleaning, nuzzling, and nursing her new little one who spends a lot of time eating and even more time napping. It’s hard being that cute.”
Chrystal and her calf remain behind the scenes where they are bonding privately (of course, with interested onlookers, like “Uncle” Auggie, peering over the maternity stall to check in on the two).
In the wild, the animal kingdom’s tallest and longest-necked species is facing what conservationists call a “silent extinction.” With fewer than 80,000 wild giraffes left – a 40% drop in the past 15 years – their conservation status was up-listed to “vulnerable” last year by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Dallas Zoo cares for the reticulated giraffe sub-species; it’s estimated there are fewer than 8,700 left in the wild, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
The calf’s father is Tebogo, one of our most social and well-known residents. Tebogo is our only breeding male under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Giraffe Species Survival Plan’s (SSP) program to ensure genetic diversity within endangered species. Tebogo also is the father of our last four calves born at the Dallas Zoo.
Chrystal and her baby will venture into the giraffe feeding yard within the next few weeks for guests to meet them. And over the next few months, the baby will slowly meet the other nine giraffes in the herd.
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.
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.
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’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.
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:
• 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.
• 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)
• 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.
• 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.
• 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!
• 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.)
• 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.
• Their eyes are about the size of golf balls. Mind blown.
• 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)
• 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.
There’s so much going on at the Dallas Zoo, we had to start a blog to tell you about it all. Have an idea for a story or a question for us? Email Info@DallasZoo.com and put “ZooHoo!” in the subject line.