While Perth Zoo giraffe’s Ellie and Kitoto gear up for their first Mother’s Day with calves Akiki and Zahara, let’s explore some of the quirky facts about giraffe breeding that you might not know.
A long gestation
Forget nine months, a giraffe pregnancy is practically as long as its neck!
The average gestation for the species is around 15 months long. This long duration ensures the calf can be well developed before birth, allowing it to stand up and move around when it’s first born – even if those first steps are a little shaky!
A pregnant giraffe gives birth standing up. Given the calf is developed when it’s ready to come Earthside, they are born in a ‘superman’ position. That means their front legs and head come first, followed by the body and finally the backlegs.
It’s a long journey from birth canal to the floor, but the shock of the fall helps stimulate the calf’s breathing and tears the amniotic sac.
If you’re a keen visitor, you’ve surely noticed how quickly our not-so-little giraffe calves are growing and reaching new heights.
But did you know, when a mother first gives birth, the calf can be up to 180cm? That’s a 6ft tall infant!
It takes a village
Much like many other species, giraffes will band together to help look after a new baby in the herd and protect them from predators. If there are multiple calves, the mothers may even move around together and keep their babies in a ‘creche’ or ‘nursery’ herd.
You may remember our keepers stepped into this important role and had to hand rear Akiki. Thanks to their dedication and hard work, little Akiki became accustomed to bottle feeds and has grown into a strong, healthy calf.
Don't forget, mums get free entry to the Zoo on Mother's Day!