The Santa Barbara Zoo has announced that both of their adult female Masai giraffes, Adia and Audrey, are pregnant.
This comes just three weeks after Masai giraffes were declared “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The zoo’s adult male giraffe Michael is the sire.
Zoo officials say this is the first pregnancy for 5-year-old Adia who arrived at the zoo in December 2017 from the Cleveland Zoo. She is due in April 2020.
This is the fifth pregnancy for 11-year-old Audrey, who has had four other calves with Michael. She is due in July 2020.
“The number of Masai giraffe in the wild is significantly declining, and the population under human care here in the U.S. is relatively small. So every single giraffe born at the Zoo helps keep their species genetically diverse and thriving,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, the Zoo’s vice president of animal health and care.
Zoo officials say Michael is the most genetically important male Masai giraffe in North America, as he is only related to his offspring. Michael was brought to the Zoo from Canada in December 2011 and has since sired seven calves. Five of those calves have moved to other accredited zoos as part of a cooperative breeding program among accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
The most recent giraffe born, Amirah, was born in March 2018 and remains at the Zoo as a member of the giraffe herd.
Dr. Barnes says the calves born at the zoo go to other AZA zoos so their important genes are passed on to maximize genetic diversity.
Giraffe gestation is approximately 15 months, and pregnancies are confirmed through hormone analysis of fecal samples, according to zoo officials.
According to the IUCN, there are an estimated 35,000 Masai giraffes currently, but their population has fallen by nearly 50% in the last three decades. Africa’s overall giraffe population has decreased by up to 40% in that same timeframe.