Hand-Raising 2 Baby Giraffes
Two male giraffe calves mix with the herd for the first time at San Diego Zoo Safari Park on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park

By Lauren J. Mapp

Zookeepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park introduced two male giraffe calves to the rest of the herd in the field exhibit on Tuesday after previously keeping them in a separate enclosure for the past four months.

The calves were born earlier this year on Jan. 27 and Feb. 22. The first is the offspring of its mother Acacia and father Habari, the second was born to Gasira and Robert. Both required specialized care and bottle-feedings three times per day due to health issues. Keepers separated them from the herd in a “boma” enclosure.

“We determined we needed to hand-rear them because of some medical issues,” Senior Keeper Kimberly Millspaugh said.

The older calf suffered from inflammation in his throat and nasal cavity, making it difficult for him to nurse from his mother. He was then brought to the Safari Park’s Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center to be cared for.

By introducing them back to the field, keepers hope they’ll fold into the giraffe herd and learn social skills. The calves interacted with the other giraffes as well as with the ostriches that share the habitat.

“Today, we let them out of the boma—and they got to meet the giraffe herd, up close and personal,” Millspaugh said. “They had a great time running around.”

The calves may be seen occasionally during the Africa Tram Safari tours in their new habitat by park visitors this summer as they get used to the herd dynamics.

Giraffe populations have decreased by 40 percent in the past 30 years, Safari Park officials said. They are on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endangered list and the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists them as “vulnerable.”