First Baby Giraffe in 26 Years Born at Cincinnati Zoo

Apr 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: Lifestyle

The Cincinnati Zoo celebrated the birth of its first baby giraffe in 26 years Saturday morning, as four-year-old mother Tessa gave birth to her first calf. The gender and weight of the calf are not yet known because the mother and child are being allowed privacy for bonding until April 4.

Tessa began displaying signs of labor around 5 am Saturday. Soon, volunteers noticed the calf’s hoof coming through and alerted the zoo staff. The baby was born at 9:40 am. After Tessa licked the baby clean, it was trying to stand for the first time by 10:00 am. It began nursing at 11:10 am.

L84 Giraffe First Baby Giraffe in 26 Years Born at Cincinnati ZooTessa is a Maasai giraffe. Maasai giraffes are native to the savannas and woodlands of Kenya and Tanzania, where they eat leaves, shoots, and fruits. With a neck as long as a man’s body, the Maasai giraffe is the largest subspecies of giraffe and the tallest land mammal. Males are capable of reaching 20 feet in height and 4,250 pounds in weight. Average height is about 13 to 17 feet. Tessa weighs approximately 1,800 pounds. A kick from a giraffe’s sharp hoof can kill a lion with one blow.

Maasai giraffes can become pregnant anytime after they reach four years. In the wild, three out of four babies die from predators and other causes. A Maasai giraffe’s average life span in the wild is 25 years. In captivity they live about 28 years. Some have lived into their 30s.

Tessa came from the Houston Zoo to the Cincinnati Zoo in 2008 to celebrate the opening of the zoo’s new Giraffe Ridge. Her baby’s father, Kimbaumbau (Kimba), from the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island, also came to Cincinnati in 2008.

The Cincinnati Zoo, the second oldest zoo in the United States, has been raising giraffe babies since 1889, when the zoo became the first in the Western Hemisphere to have a calf born in captivity. Saturday’s birth was the first new calf born in 26 years.

“The Zoo is buzzing with excitement today with the birth of the baby giraffe,” said zoo Executive Director Thane Maynard. “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.”

Over the weekend, the zoo will provide news and pictures of the baby through the zoo’s website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Visitors will get a chance to help name the baby.

Visitors to the Cincinnati Zoo can feed a giraffes at Giraffe Ridge from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm every day through October 21. The zoo is located at 3400 Vine Street in Cincinnati, and is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm every day except Christmas. Ticket packages begin at $14 for adults and $10 for children and seniors. For more information, visit the zoo’s website at

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