Masai Giraffe

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Six Masai giraffes have been born at the Santa Barbara Zoo in the past four years— most recently on August 6, 2016, when Betty Lou gave birth to male calf Parker.

AUDREY

  • Was born in February 2008 at the Los Angeles Zoo and was hand-raised by keepers
  • Has light-colored lips
  • Gave birth to male calf Buttercup on November 13, 2014, and male calf Chad on March 26, 2016
  • Has given birth to two other calves, both male

MICHAEL

  • Has sired six calves at the Zoo since he arrived from Parc Safari in Quebec, Canada in December 2011
  • Is considered North America’s most genetically valuable male Masai giraffe
  • Finally got here after 2 1⁄2 years in paperwork delays (to allow him into the U.S. due to restrictions on importing “hoof stock” after an outbreak of “Mad Cow Disease” in the 2000s)
  • Has bumps on his face made of calcium deposits, typical of male giraffes, in addition to “ossicones,” the horn-like growths atop his skull, which are found in both males and females

BETTY LOU

  • Was born at the San Diego Zoo in August 2007
  • Is smaller than Audrey
  • Has given birth to two female calves and male calf Parker on August 6, 2016
  • Was raised by her mother and is more skittish when keepers are near her calves than Audrey, who was hand-raised

CHAD

  • Is male, born to Audrey March 26, 2016

The giraffe family here at the Santa Barbara Zoo is just a small part of the population of 104 Masai giraffes that live at 28 accredited zoos in North America. Since Michael is the most genetically valuable male Masai giraffe anywhere outside of Africa, our Zoo plays an important role in the overall population. This is why our adorable calves go off to start herds of their own (at other AZA-accredited zoos) and contribute their valuable genetics to the overall population.

PARKER

  • Is male, born to Betty Lou August 6, 2016

We Miss Her Too!

Gemina was a Baringo giraffe with a crooked neck who lived at the Zoo for 20 years, until her death at the old age (in giraffe years) of 21 in 2008. No one knows why her neck gradually became crooked. She was born at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in 1986 with no known medical issues, did not appear to be in discomfort and was treated as a normal member of the herd. A new book recounts and celebrates her life.
Recently, Gemina’s rearticulated spine and skull have been put on display in the Zoo’s Discovery Pavilion. We’ll never forget her!

From the Keepers

“Michael hangs out at the Feeding Deck, and guests wonder if he gets full from all the lettuce he’s fed. We don’t worry about overfeeding him with lettuce because it is just fiber and water, and has few calories. Giraffes eat the equivalent of 2 percent to 4 percent of their body weight every day. For Michael, who weighs 2,700 pounds, that is split between 32 pounds of alfalfa and 23 pounds of specially-formulated herbivore grain pellets.” ~ Wendy A.

Conservation Status

There are an estimated 37,000 Masai giraffes in Kenya and Tanzania, but a more thorough census is required. They are at risk due to poaching and habitat loss and degradation. The IUCN Red List provisionally lists them as Least Concern, but that may change after current population censuses are completed.

Tallest in the Land

Giraffes are the tallest land mammal, and the Masai is the largest subspecies, growing to more than 17 feet tall and weighing 2,700 pounds. But even at that height, they have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as humans do.