The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden’s gift to you this holiday season – we are excited to announce that our giraffe herd is growing by two! The Zoo’s female giraffes, Ellie, 20, and Julu, 5, are pregnant and due to give birth in May 2021. Demetri, 3, is the father of both calves, which are also his first offspring. This will be Ellie’s sixth calf to be born at the OKC Zoo and Julu’s first offspring.
The OKC Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) Giraffe Species Survival Plan™ (SSP), which made the breeding recommendation to pair Ellie and Julu with Demetri. SSP programs were developed by the AZA to oversee breeding management and sustainability of select animal species within AZA-member zoos and aquariums. Several of these programs also enhance conservation efforts of these species in the wild as well.
“We’re elated about the arrival of not only one, but two giraffe calves and look forward to watching Ellie and Julu experience motherhood together,” said Tracey Dolphin, OKC Zoo curator of hoofstock. “Through our commitment to giraffe conservation and AZA’s breeding program, we recognize that these calves will play a significant role in helping ensure this species survives for future generations.”
The Zoo’s veterinary and hoofstock care teams will continue to monitor Ellie and Julu during their pregnancies through visual exams. Both Ellie and Julu are healthy and their routines will remain the same including diet, training, exercise and spending time with herd mates, Demetri and Mashamba, 2, who arrived from the Memphis Zoo in October. Ellie and Julu will also continue to participate in the Zoo’s giraffe feeding experience.
The International Union for Conservation Nature list giraffe as endangered to critically endangered. Wild giraffe populations have declined over the past 30 years by 40 percent due to habitat destruction and poaching, but there is still time to help same them, thanks to the collaborative efforts of groups such as AZA and its accredited members. In 2017, AZA created the Giraffe SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) program knowing the plight wild giraffes are facing. The Zoo is proud to be a Giraffe SAFE partner committed to providing annual financial support for giraffe conservation programs in Africa and promoting public awareness about protecting these iconic animals.
The average gestation for a giraffe calf is approximately 15 months. Giraffes give birth while standing and the calf is born hooves-first. A newborn calf will proceed to stand usually within one hour of birth, a natural characteristic that helps it to quickly elude predators in the wild. Adult giraffe can grow to be 20-feet tall and weigh as much as 2,500 pounds.
Follow the Zoo’s social channels, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, for updates on Ellie and Julu, and the our entire animal family!