You have questions, we have answers! We couldn’t be more proud to team up with Animal Planet television network on a remarkable project, as we live-stream and televise a giraffe birth for the first time. Our Katie, already a mom to calf Jamie back in 2011, is a special girl, with gorgeous looks and a sweet personality.
We’re answering your questions on Twitter and Facebook, but we’ve also put together this Q&A to help you understand everything about “Giraffe Birth Live.”
Q: What’s happening, and why? We are partnering with Animal Planet to show you the birth of a new calf to Katie, one of our 12 giraffes. The animal husbandry expertise of our giraffe keepers and veterinary team are superb, and we’re proud of the incredible work they do. We’ve chosen to pull back the curtain a bit so you can see how much our staff cares about our animals, and how dedicated they are to caring for them.
Q: What will we see? Right now, you can watch Katie in her maternity stall on the web at apl.tv/giraffe. When she goes into labor, you’ll be able to watch the birth unfold there. Animal Planet also plans to interrupt their live TV network if possible.
Q: How has Katie reacted to the cameras? We have taken great pains over the past several months with this process. Giraffes are very inquisitive and have excellent eyesight, so they see even the smallest changes in their world. And our animal staff are not shy about protecting the giraffes! They oversaw all installations and had veto power over any part of the process that they felt might cause stress to the giraffes.
We installed all equipment – from the 10 cameras down to single cables – very slowly and gradually and gave the herd time to get used to them well before the birth window hit. Katie was curious about some of the cameras at first, but never seemed stressed, and now she just ignores them.
Q: When is Katie’s due date? The window for birth is now to early May, but we think it will be before May. She could have the calf any day now.
Q: How long is a giraffe’s gestational period? About 15 months.
Q: Where is Katie when she’s not on camera? She’s outside enjoying the Texas sun and walking around, which is really good for her. This outdoor area isn’t in public view or on camera.
Q: Why aren’t there cameras outside? The eight special cameras installed by Animal Planet are focused solely on the maternity stall, since that is where the main event will occur. These multiple cameras allow Animal Planet to show several angles of the birth.
Q: What if Katie goes into labor outside? When she’s outside, our keepers monitor her constantly. If they see signs of labor, the keepers will move her back into the maternity stall.
Q: Can I see Katie right now in the Giants of the Savanna habitat? No, Katie is not out in the exhibit. Now that she’s so close to delivering, she’s no longer in those public areas so we can keep a closer eye on her.
Q: How much notice will you give viewers so we can see the birth? As much as we can! Giraffe labor can take several hours, or it could happen quickly. We’re hoping to give you several hours of notice before the calf arrives, but it depends on Katie! We recommend signing up for text alerts on the Animal Planet website, at apl.tv/giraffe. Look to the right under “Birth Alerts and More.”
Q: What happens if Katie delivers in the middle of the night and we miss seeing it? Animal Planet plans to air a special show later, which will show you the prenatal care Katie received, how her keepers care for her and the other giraffes, and how the birth unfolded. We’ll share on our social media when we find out when it will air (most likely very soon after the birth).
Q: What time does Katie come in for the night? Katie is usually in her maternity stall each evening around 5 p.m. CDT for dinner.
Q: Is anyone monitoring Katie in the middle of the night? Yes, the keepers are watching her around the clock. Our nine-member giraffe team takes turns monitoring the Zoo’s overhead cameras from their homes via their cellphone or computer. Night keepers also check on Katie in the giraffe barn. (And actually, we’re all so excited about this that many other staffers are watching, too!)
Q: What if something goes wrong during the delivery? With any birth – people OR animals – that’s always a risk, although our teams have performed much prenatal care to minimize it. Our veterinarians are on call 24/7, and they and the keepers stand ready to assist if needed. In that case, Katie is trained walk into the giraffe restraint device (GRD), a special padded, custom-built chute where the team will be able to safely help with the delivery. There, keepers can help her without using anesthesia, a risk we always try to avoid for the health of both mom and calf.
Q: Why is Katie in her own stall? Katie needs her own space to safely deliver the calf, since we have a large (and curious!) herd. While they won’t try to hurt the calf, some of them weigh up to 2,500 pounds, and we don’t want to risk them stepping on it. The maternity stall is specially equipped with extra layers of soft sand for Katie’s comfort and as a cushion for the baby when he/she drops 6 feet at birth. (You’ll notice her dedicated keepers cleaning her stall daily on the webcam.) After the birth, the separate stall also provides a safe space for mother-calf bonding.
Q: Who are the other giraffes next to Katie’s stall? There are 11 other giraffes who could be checking on Katie – including our youngest, Kopano, who was born in October. All are curious, especially her pal Jade, who’s often seen peeking over.
Q: Who is the baby’s father? The proud papa-to-be is Tebogo. He’s our only breeding male under the Giraffe Species Survival Plan’s (SSP) program to ensure genetic diversity within this threatened species. Tebogo also is the father of Kopano as well as 4-year-old Jamie, who was Katie’s first baby.
Q: Why does the Animal Planet webcam periodically go black? It goes off now and then while Animal Planet makes technical updates or switches between camera feeds.
If you have other questions, please post them and we’ll do our best to respond. We’re thrilled to show you the effort, skill and dedication our staff provides. This partnership with Animal Planet will give the world a better perspective on the responsibility we shoulder as an accredited zoological park. We’re seeing your support on social media and we thank you for taking such great interest in this special birth.
Q: When did you start this project? We first began talking about it last September, so it’s been a very involved process.
Q: How does the staff like it? The keepers and supervisors in the animal department have been amazing. It’s certainly added to their workload, and many people wouldn’t like having cameras on them as they do their daily work. However, they are so dedicated to giraffes and to conservation efforts on their behalf. And they realize that by showing this type of program, we can help people understand the need to support conservation efforts in Africa, as we do, and the need for the work done at zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. So the team has been incredibly cooperative. They’re the best!
As for our PR team… well, don’t ask about the PR team.