After seeing an Amur leopard born last month, zoo has two giraffes expecting
It’s a baby boom at the Santa Barbara Zoo! The zoo’s Animal Care and Health team has confirmed that two of its endangered female giraffes are pregnant. Adia is pregnant and due in January 2022, and Audrey is pregnant and will be due in July 2022. The zoo’s adult male Michael is the sire of both.
The zoo’s Amur leopard Ajax, also gave birth on Aug. 6 to her first cub Marta. As the most endangered cats in the world, with only 100 estimated to be remaining in the wild, the birth of Ajax’s first cub is great news for the Amur leopard Species Survival Plan, a program to maintain genetic diversity of threatened and endangered species in human care.
Ajax and the new cub will remain in their den behind the scenes during this critical bonding period and will not be visible to the public for several months. Once mom and cub have bonded and the cub receives a clean bill of health, Ajax and the cub will rotate with the father, Kasha, in having access to their exhibit habitat. In the wild, males and females usually do not remain together after breeding occurs, so this separation is important for the safety of Ajax and the cub.
As for the giraffes, this will be the second calf for Adia (age 7), whose first calf Twiga, with Michael, was born in March 2020, just after the zoo closed due to the pandemic. This will be the seventh calf for Audrey (age 13), who has had four calves with Michael, most recently Amirah, who was born in March 2018 and is now at the Sacramento Zoo. With the addition of these two calves next year, 10 Masai giraffes will have been born at the zoo since 2013, nine sired by Michael (age 15).
“We’re excited to welcome another Masai giraffe to our herd and continue to contribute to the population of this endangered species,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, the zoo’s vice president of Animal Care & Health. “This is a great example of the critical work done at the Santa Barbara Zoo with our incredible animal care team.”
The gestation period for a giraffe is about 15 months, and pregnancies are confirmed through hormone analysis of fecal samples.
Michael is the most genetically important male Masai giraffe in North America, as he is only related to his offspring. He was brought to the zoo from Canada in December 2011 and has since sired nine calves. Eight of the calves have moved to other accredited zoos as part of a cooperative breeding program among accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Two of Michael’s sons have had offspring, so he is now a grandpa. Audrey arrived at the Santa Barbara Zoo in 2010 from the Los Angeles Zoo, and Adia arrived in 2017 from the Cleveland Zoo.
The giraffes at the zoo are among more than 120 Masai giraffes that live at 28 North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
The zoo needs the community’s help now more than ever. The public can also help the zoo welcome this long-necked arrival by becoming a Foster Feeder sponsor of the giraffe herd or the Amur leopard cub. A donation of $50 or more helps with the cost of feeding the growing giraffe family. For information or to become a Foster Feeder, go to sbzoo.pivvit.com/masai-giraffe
The Santa Barbara Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. for members and 9:30 a.m. for general admission until 5 p.m. (seasonal extended hours on select days); general admission is $19.95 for adults, $14.95 for children 2-12, and free for children under 2. Parking is $11. The Santa Barbara Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).