Tessa, our five-year-old Maasai giraffe, has given birth! On Friday at 8:20 a.m., Tessa delivered a healthy, 150-pound female calf in her indoor stall. Mother, father (“Kimba”) and baby are doing well and are spending time bonding off-exhibit.
“The Zoo is buzzing with excitement and incredibly, so is the community,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo. “We made the decision several weeks ago to live-tweet the birth in real-time and the response has been astonishing. The #giraffebirth tweets spread like wildfire, making this, the first birth to be live-tweeted, an overwhelming success. And, we saw people heavily invested in the birth of this amazing, new baby. Most importantly, the calf is doing well and she and mom are bonding.”
Tessa became restless early Friday morning, around 6 a.m. Shortly thereafter, keepers noticed the calf’s hoof coming through. Two hours and twenty minutes later, at 8:20 a.m., Tessa delivered her calf. Soon after delivery, Tessa began licking her calf at 8:25 a.m. and the calf first attempted to stand at 8:27 a.m. The calf successfully stood for the first time at 9:12 a.m. and nursed for the first time at 9:37 a.m.
The Zoo tweeted every milestone in the birth process and thousands of people followed along, tweeted, and retweeted. The Zoo will continue to keep followers in the loop at @CincinnatiZoo, using the hashtag #giraffebirth and on its website and Facebook page.
Beginning on Monday, October 15, visitors can get their first glimpse of mom and the new baby through the window, outside the exhibit at Giraffe Ridge. Then, depending on the weather, Tessa and the calf may go outdoors in the next two weeks.
The Cincinnati Zoo’s history with giraffe births dates back to 1889 when it became the first zoo in the Western Hemisphere to have a giraffe born in captivity. This will be Tessa’s second calf, her first calf, Zuri, was born in April 2011. At seven-weeks-old, Zuri fractured her leg in her indoor stall and after months of working with local equine specialists, the Zoo was forced to make the devastating and most humane decision for the calf, to euthanize her on July 1, 2011.
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.