A year ago, we welcomed a gangly bundle of joy in the African Savannah and our giraffe herd grew by one.
Today, that not-so-little giraffe, Akiki, celebrates his first birthday!
We marked the occasion with a layered vegetable and browse cake, but Akiki’s birthday symbolizes much more than just an opportunity for celebratory treats.
In fact, this is a major conservation milestone that represents how the work of good zoos has the potential to halt extinction in its tracks.
With wild populations of giraffe declining at an alarming rate, each individual calf born through the regionally coordinated breeding program makes a huge impact on the future of the species.
And what makes Akiki extra special? His zoo keepers stepped in to hand-raise him as a newborn when his mum was having trouble, ensuring his survival.
Once born, it didn’t take long for little Akiki to capture the hearts of his zoo keepers and our community. But he did have a tougher start to life than most.
First-time mum, Ellie, did not take to motherhood and had difficulty nursing.
When it became clear that nature was not taking its course, our dedicated animal care staff stepped in to nurture him.
Hand-raising a newborn that stands around 1.8m tall is no mean feat. Armed with passion and plenty of calf milk, our keepers poured months of love into raising Akiki, spending long hours and late nights by his side bottle-feeding to ensure he grew big and strong.
By seven weeks old, he had already grown to more than 2.3m tall and was guzzling down two litres of the specially formulated giraffe milk replacer at every feed.
Akiki grew up alongside fellow calf Zahara and together, they learned how to become giraffes. And despite being hand-raised, Akiki was able to follow Zahara’s lead and integrate into the herd with ease.
Akiki’s first birthday represents much more than just an opportunity for birthday enrichment.
This major conservation milestone is a representation of how the work of zoos has the potential to change the course of history.
No one wants to imagine a world where giraffe no longer exist. But with wild populations facing a ‘silent extinction’, it’s becoming a very real risk.
Wild populations of the gentle giants are dwindling; their habitats are disappearing, and they are being hunted unjustly.
In the past 30 years, the overall wild giraffe population has declined by a heartbreaking 40 percent.
That’s why zoos work together through a regionally coordinated breeding program to ensure giraffe are continuing to be born into safe homes.
Since 1995, Perth Zoo has successfully bred and raised 12 calves to help establish a viable giraffe population in zoos across Australia and New Zealand.
Currently, we are home to a herd of six giraffe who are important ambassador animals, encouraging visitors to develop an appreciation and love for the species.
Akiki’s story is the perfect example of the work good zoos do. We take the vulnerable under our wing and do everything we can to protect them.
Animals should have the right to thrive, not just survive. That’s why each individual calf born in a conservation zoo, like Akiki, represents a beacon of hope for the future of the species.
Happy birthday, Akiki, and congratulations to all the Perth Zoo keepers who raised him!