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Monday, February 13, 2017

Cupid visits the savanna: Giraffes Dave and Tufani are expecting!

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications


Tufani: Enjoys sweet grain snacks, has mastered the art of drooling and sports beautiful dark brown spots. Looking for love and another biscuit.

Dave: Willing to stick his neck out for love.

Cupid: Spotted the pair on the savanna.

When it comes to cupid’s arrow hitting the mark, it appears that in at least one instance, the arrow stuck. Giraffes Dave and Tufani are expecting!

Looking good, Dave! Photo by Dennis Dow, WPZ.
Tufani (left) with her nephew Misawa in 2013. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.

This Valentine's-worthy news comes as keepers prepare for a long, long wait. Giraffe have one of the longest gestation periods for mammals: 14.5 to 15 months. While it is impossible to be 100% sure that Tufani is pregnant (without putting in a tall order for an ultrasound), keepers tell us that all the right signs are pointing to a new addition to the savanna sometime this summer.

That is your cue to get excited.

Here is a photo of the last little giraffe born at Woodland Park Zoo in 2013. The lovable "grumpy-face" Misawa is the offspring of our late Chioke and Olivia (Tufani's sister). In September 2015, Misawa moved to Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas to begin his own family. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

When Tufani gives birth this summer, it will be the first for both parents.

Dave and Tufani have been herd mates for a little over three years. Handsome Dave arrived from Brookfield Zoo in 2014 and Tufani has been at WPZ since arriving from Dickerson Park Zoo in 2009.

When it comes to giraffe flirtation, it's all about the chemistry (hormones), so as soon as Tufani was off of her birth control, the flirting began. Through smell and a little giraffe necking, Dave could sense that Tufani was receptive... and the rest is history.

Squad goals: Olivia, Tufani, Dave and Misawa on the savanna in 2014. Photo by Dennis Dow, WPZ.

With a birth window of anywhere between mid-May and June, keepers look for physical and behavioral signs to clue them into what is happening. Lead Keeper Katie Ahl is what you might call a giraffe doula. She is an expert in keeping pregnant giraffes comfortable and predicting what the new mom will need once baby arrives. Usually, it's more leaf-eater biscuits.

Katie tells us that besides fecal hormone testing, which is collected each day over an entire month, there are some other indicators of pregnancy. A rounding belly, increased appetite and lack of estrus behavior are all signs of a pregnant giraffe. Still, just like people, each giraffe is different, so relying on these indicators alone might not be accurate.

While the lab test confirmed Tufani’s pregnancy, the zoo’s animal care staff advises that animal pregnancies cannot be 100% confirmed until the baby is born. “Due to the long gestation period, signs of pregnancy can be difficult to detect early on,” said Katie. “For those of us who work with Tufani on a daily basis, we can see how her physical appearance has changed. That combined with the lab results make us confident she is pregnant.”

If you see Tufani on the savanna, you might not be able to spot a visible bump until closer to her birth window, when her belly has started to round out. “If you know what you’re looking for, you can see it,” says Katie. “She’s now in her third trimester so she’s really starting to show; and she’ll only get bigger from here.”

Katie is sure about one thing, she thinks Tufani will be a great mom. “Tufani was a wonderful aunt to Misawa,” says Katie. “She was interested in him the minute he was born and was very protective of him. This makes me think she will be a good mom. I also think Dave will be a good herd mate and, based on her experience as a mom, Olivia will be a good aunt.”

Tufani's experience as Misawa’s doting aunt could prove useful for her as a first time mother.  Photo by Ryan Hawk, WPZ.

Tufani’s animal care team, consisting of zookeepers, managers and veterinary staff, will continue to increase her diet and provide regular vet checks. “Closer to her birth window we will need to do daily assessments to see if she is in labor,” explains Katie. “We will likely keep Tufani, Dave and Olivia together at the barn if there is a possibility of her giving birth that day. Otherwise it will be business as usual.”

Along with a detailed birth management plan that helps keepers and veterinary staff prepare for all scenarios of a giraffe birth, there is a sense of excitement in anticipation of the baby's arrival. Dave and Tufani are different subspecies, so their baby will be a hybrid, called a common giraffe. Katie hopes that the baby will have Dave's calm, cool temperament and Tufani's cool eye markings. But as long as the baby is healthy and the birth goes smoothly, Katie will be thrilled.

When asked how excited she is for this birth, on a scale of 1 to 10, Katie says, 10.

Misawa, Tufani and Olivia. Giraffes give birth while standing, and the calf drops 5 feet from the ground as it is born. About 6 feet tall at birth, infants usually stand within half an hour after birth and can run around with their moms several hours later. Photo by Dennis Dow, WPZ.

Katie and all the savanna staff will keep an extra eye on Tufani and keep her diet on track, which is important even when a pregnant giraffe insists she is craving more biscuits. "I may have given her at least one extra biscuit" admits Katie.

Want to show your love for giraffes this Valentine's Day? We recommend a few Tufani-and-Dave-worthy gifts for your own sweetheart.

An up-close look at giraffe lips! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, WPZ.

Bring your crush to the zoo: Giraffe fans can help support conservation efforts by visiting Woodland Park Zoo. Each visit supports our Wildlife Survival Fund projects, including the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. The foundation seeks to provide the first long-term ecological monitoring effort of the Angolan giraffe—an important desert-dwelling giraffe subspecies in northwestern Namibia.

ZooParent adoptions make pretty sweet Valentine's gifts! www.zoo.org/zooparent

Adopt a giraffe together:
Nothing says "I love you" like a soft, cuddly giraffe plush with a mission for conservation. This little cutie will remind your sweetheart that you are committed...to a future where giraffes are thriving. ZooParent adoptions start at $50.

A beautiful portrait of Olivia, Tufani's sister and herd mate. Photo by Ryan Hawk, WPZ.

An entire year of love: Need a tried and true last-minute Valentine's present that is sure to impress? Consider a zoo membership for the animal lover in your life. With packages starting at $49, a zoo membership is the ultimate token of affection.

If you're as excited about this news as we are, then you'll be pleased to hear that we will be sharing updates on Tufani and crew right here as soon as we have more news to share. Thank you for showing your love for giraffes and have a beautiful Valentine's Day!

Smoooooches! Wet giraffe kisses courtesy of Olivia. Photo by Dennis Dow, WPZ.

3 comments:

  1. There might be a typo...shouldn't Tufani be due NEXT summer?

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    Replies
    1. She got pregnant last year and is due this summer!

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    2. Oh, that makes a lot more sense! I misread the article about when she became pregnant. I'm glad we don't have to wait until next summer for the baby. Thanks!

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