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CINCINNATI, OH (April 2, 2011) – Tessa, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s four-year-old Maasai giraffe gave birth to her first calf this morning, April 2 at 9:40 a.m. in her indoor stall. This news is especially exciting considering that the last time the Zoo celebrated a giraffe birth was nearly 26 years ago!  The Cincinnati Zoo’s history with giraffe births actually dates back to 1889 when it became the first zoo in the Western Hemisphere to have a giraffe born in captivity.

“The Zoo is buzzing with excitement today with the birth of the baby giraffe,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo. “It’s been a long time, but well worth the wait.  Just when you think you have seen it all, something truly amazing like this comes along reminds me how special nature truly is.”

Tessa became restless early Saturday morning, around 5 a.m. Shortly thereafter, volunteers noticed the calf’s hoof coming through and immediately contacted Zoo Veterinarian and Keeper staff.  Four hours later, Tessa delivered her calf at 9:40 a.m. Soon after delivery, Tessa began licking her calf and the calf first attempted to stand around 10:00 a.m.  The calf successfully nursed at 11:10 a.m. Sex of the calf is unknown at this time.  Tessa and her baby are doing well and will remain inside off exhibit through Monday, April 4 to allow privacy during this bonding time.

The Zoo will provide the latest updates, photos and video of the baby through the Zoo’s website, Facebook, Twitter and Blog pages throughout the weekend.  Visitors will also have the chance to help name the baby.

Tessa, who currently weighs approximately 1,800 pounds, came to the Cincinnati Zoo in 2008 from the Houston Zoo for the opening of Giraffe Ridge. The father, “Kimbaumbau” (Kimba) also came to Cincinnati in 2008, from the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island.

Although the numbers have decreased in the past century, giraffes are not currently endangered, but listed as “lower risk” with fairly stable populations. Unlike many species, there is no true breeding season for the Maasai Giraffe and females can become pregnant beginning at just four years of age.  In the wild up to 75% of the calves die in their first few months of life, mainly due to predation.