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Birth watch begins for Seattle's pregnant giraffe

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Editor

Tufani on the African Savanna. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

The signs are there: Tufani is acting restless, her appetite is reduced, and we have observed changes in her udder. She could give birth to Seattle's tallest baby any day now. Or within the week. Or hey, who knows. It's not an exact science.

Lead keeper Katie Ahl tells us more:

With a gestation period of 14 to 15 months, the birth window for a giraffe is wide. We've been expecting to see the new arrival appear sometime between May and July. According to the 3,000 of you who entered our giraffe baby pool contest (now closed), most thought we'd see him or her in June. But we could have a new bundle of joy sooner!

Keeper Katie first took note of the changes in Tufani's behavior earlier this week. She noted “Tufani has been given daily opportunities to cross from the corral to the African Savanna exhibit with the other two giraffes, but has chosen to stay behind in the corral and barn." It was then that Katie called to tell us to charge our camera batteries, because news could be coming any minute!

Hello, Tufani. Photo: Katie Ahl/Woodland Park Zoo.

Now that the birth watch has officially begun, keepers will monitor Tufani closely for signs of labor. Giraffes give birth while standing, and the calf drops 5 feet from the ground as it is born. About 6 foot tall at birth, infants usually stand within half an hour after birth and can run around with their moms several hours later.

The father is Dave, who arrived at the zoo in June 2014. This will be the first baby for both parents who were paired under a breeding recommendation made by the Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative, conservation breeding program to ensure genetic diversity and demographic stability in North American zoos.

Dave is a well-loved fixture around the African Savanna. We don't think anyone minds that the gifts that have been coming in from Tufani's baby registry tend to first make it to Dave for testing and approval. Here he is making sure a feeding bucket filled with salad is good enough for Tufani.

You all have been so incredibly generous by showering Tufani with gifts and contributing to our fundraising drive to provide for giraffe care such as prenatal nutrition planning, veterinary monitoring, and habitat conservation.

Tufani has a tall order ahead of her, but she clearly isn't on her own. It takes a village. Thanks for being part of ours.

Tufani's baby-on-the-way represents our love and hope for giraffe whose numbers in Africa have plummeted by more than 40% in the past two decades. Through our Wildlife Survival Fund project, Woodland Park Zoo supports the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, which seeks to provide the first long-term ecological monitoring effort of the Angolan giraffe. If giraffe, with their tall necks and impressive height, are the watchtowers of the savanna, then we can return the favor and stick our necks out for them.