Endangered Reticulated Giraffe Born in Florida Zoo

The lanky calf appears healthy and was immediately ready to eat.

baby giraffe and Luna mom

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

One of the newest babies to arrive at a Florida zoo, a reticulated giraffe calf stood up on his gangly legs just about half an hour after birth. Weighing an impressive 165 pounds and standing about 6 feet tall, the calf soon began nursing.

The calf was born at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to 13-year-old mom, Luna. It's the first reticulated giraffe (Giraffa reticulata) born at the facility in two years.

Reticulated giraffes are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. In the wild, the primary threats to the reticulated giraffe are believed to be habitat loss (due to agriculture changes, infrastructure, and urban development, and land degradation), habitat fragmentation, and poaching.

There are an estimated 15,950 individuals left in the wild—primarily in northeastern Kenya, with small groups also in southern Somalia and southern Ethiopia. That's a drop of more than 50% from the approximate 36,000 animals there were three decades ago.

Although the IUCN lists the population numbers as decreasing, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, recently, numbers in northern Kenya appear to be increasing because of improved community and private land conservation.

giraffe calf standing
The calf stood not long after birth. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Luna is an experienced mom, as this is her sixth baby. When keepers noticed she was in labor around 10:45 a.m. on Friday, July 2, they closed the giraffe overlook to guests in order to give her a quiet environment. The calf was born at 11:35 a.m.

He stood for the first time at 12:06 p.m. and was nursing by 12:28 p.m. Mom and calf were moved to their barn.

Veterinary staff members examined the calf and found the baby is a male who appears to be healthy.

“This birth was a special experience that we were excited to share with our guests. Luna and her calf are doing great, and we are looking forward to watching this little one grow,” Corey Neatrour, the zoo's assistant curator of mammals, said in a statement.

This is the 44th giraffe calf born in the zoo’s history. This species has been at the zoo since 1957.

About Giraffes

baby giraffe with mom
Mom Luna with baby giraffe. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Giraffes are the tallest animals on land and can reach up to 18 feet in height and can weigh as much as 4,000 pounds.

No two giraffes have identical coat patterns. The reticulated giraffe has orange-brown patches that are separated by white lines which continue down their legs. Their colors grow darker as they get older.

Giraffe mothers have a gestation period of approximately 15 months. They give birth standing up, which means babies have to endure a swift drop to the ground when they enter the world. Newborn calves can nearly double their height in just the first year.

Calves rely on their mother's milk for about 9-12 months. They begin eating solid food (mostly leaves) when they are about 4 months old.

In the wild, only about 50% of baby giraffes survive in some populations because of predator attacks. Giraffe mothers are fiercely protective and will powerfully kick predators that come near their babies.

View Article Sources
  1. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

  2. Muneza, A., et al. "Reticulated Giraffe." IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2018, doi:10.2305/iucn.uk.2018-2.rlts.t88420717a88420720.en

  3. "Reticulated Giraffe." Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

  4. "Giraffe Facts." Giraffe Conservation Facts.

  5. "Starting Life." Giraffe Conservation Foundation.