Nashville Zoo is pleased to introduce Bahati, our new female Masai giraffe born in the early morning hours of Dec. 13. This is 9-year old Margarita’s third calf. Her first was born in 2010, and the second, a female named Camilla, was born in 2012 and recently left Nashville to join her permanent herd at the Columbus Zoo. With the addition of the calf, Nashville Zoo is home to three Masai giraffe and one reticulated giraffe.
“We have been tracking Margarita’s pregnancy for a year and estimated her due date to be in early December 2013,” said Kate Cortelyou, lead giraffe keeper. “I arrived at the giraffe barn around 7:30 a.m. [on Dec. 13] to discover a dry, healthy, standing baby giraffe, which is the perfect way to find them. We are so thrilled about the latest addition to our herd.”
Weighing in at birth at 180 lbs. and standing 6 feet, 5 inches tall, Bahati calf is doing well and bonding with her mom in the Zoo's state-of-the-art giraffe barn. Zoo officials will carefully monitor her development inside the barn for the next two months, then make a decision on her public debut depending on climatic conditions. With this timetable, guests should not expect to see her on exhibit until the spring.
"Giraffe have unique bodies that do not allow them to easily regulate heat, and calves are more susceptible to colder temperatures than adults," said Cortelyou. "Recommendations from giraffe care experts say that calves be held in a heated barn anytime temperatures are below a "feels-like" temperature of 60 degrees when sunny, 65 degrees when cloudy and 70 degrees when raining."
This off-exhibit time will be crucial for staff to acclimate the calf to life in the barn. She will be introduced to the other giraffe, barn routine and be trained for vet procedures.
"Giraffe learn best when a specific routine is followed and strictly adhered to," said Cortelyou. "In order for us to be successful in teaching the baby how to be on exhibit with her new herd, we must have an absolute minimum of 14 days of perfect weather. If training takes place only on a day-here, day-there basis, the baby won't learn her new routine, which creates somewhat of a chaotic environment for Margarita, baby and staff."
Introductions to the Zoo's other female giraffe, Layla, began in late December, while introduction to male Congo will begin after 30 days.
"Because of the sheer size comparison (2,750 lbs. vs.180 lbs.), we hold off introducing Congo until the baby is bigger. Congo is not an aggressive animal and has always done well with introductions in the past. Again, we do not anticipate any problems, we just don't want an accident to happen. Congo is a bit of a klutz."