The Greenville Zoo announced last week that Autumn, an 11-year-old Masai giraffe, could give birth to a calf as early as February.
The zoo’s veterinary staff confirmed the pregnancy through hormone analysis earlier this month, according to zoo director Jeff Bullock. This marks Autumn’s fourth pregnancy, but her first with Miles, an 8-year-old Masai giraffe who was born at the Houston Zoo and transferred to Greenville in September 2016.
“Baby news is always exciting and we’re looking forward to welcoming a new member of the zoo family,” said Bullock. “To add to the excitement, because Miles is such a tall giraffe, we’re especially curious and anxious to see what his first calf will look like.”
Like a majority of the animals at the Greenville Zoo, Autumn and Miles are part of a cooperative breeding program known as a Species Survival Program.
The purpose of the program is to monitor captive populations and make breeding recommendations based on genetic variability and spaces available at other accredited institutions to ensure a long-term viable population without removing animals from the wild, according to Bullock.
The Masai giraffe is the largest subspecies of giraffe and the tallest land mammal in the world, according to the Wild Nature Institute. It is currently listed as “vulnerable to extinction” because of habitats loss and poaching, which have reduced the population by more than 50 percent in the last three decades. There are currently 118 Masai giraffes in zoos around the world.
Autumn was originally transferred to the Greenville Zoo from Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo in 2007 to be paired with Walter, the zoo’s former male Masai giraffe, as part of a breeding loan.
Their first calf, Kiko, was born on Oct. 22, 2012 and was transferred to the Toronto Zoo in 2015. Their second calf, Roho, was stillborn on Aug. 20, 2014. Their third calf, Tatu, was born on Feb. 2, 2016 and was recently transferred to the Lehigh Valley Zoo in Pennsylvania.
Bullock said zoo staff will continue to monitor Autumn’s condition and keep fans updated on her progress through the zoo’s Facebook page. The public can also monitor the pregnancy and view the birth on the zoo’s webcam.
Facts About the Masai Giraffe:
Range: Masai giraffes live in the Savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands of eastern Africa. They range throughout Tanzania and southern Kenya.
Diet: Masai giraffes use their long tongues to strip leaves, bark, twigs, flowers, and fruits from treetops. They especially like leaves from the acacia tree.
Life expectancy: Males: 13.5 years | Females: 19.5 years
Weight: Males: 3,000 pounds | Females: 1,500 pounds
Height: Males: 18 feet | Females: 14 feet
Fun fact: Giraffes only need five to 30 minutes of sleep in a 24-hour period. They usually take quick naps that last only a minute or two at a time.