Escondido, California - Two male giraffe calves born earlier this year began interacting with the herd yesterday in their field exhibit at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, enthusiastically racing around and kicking up their heels. Both calves had spent the past few months in the protected surroundings of an enclosure, or boma, where they were bottle-fed three times a day and received specialized care. “We determined we needed to hand-rear them because of some medical issues,” explained Kimberly Millspaugh, senior keeper.
The first giraffe calf was born Jan. 27, and is the offspring of sire Habari and mom Acacia. The younger calf, a Masai giraffe born Feb. 22, is the offspring of mom Gasira and sire Robert.
Shortly after birth, the older calf was having difficulty nursing from his mother, due to inflammation in his nasal cavity and throat. After field assessment, the animal care and veterinary teams relocated him to the Safari Park’s Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center, where the decision was made to hand-rear and bottle-feed the calf. Today’s introduction back into the herd is part of the animal care team’s plan to give the two calves opportunities to develop proper social skills, so they can successfully integrate into a giraffe community.
The pair’s first tentative steps out of the boma were quickly followed by an eager exploration of their new mixed-species habitat. “Today, we let them out of the boma—and they got to meet the giraffe herd, up close and personal,” said Millspaugh. “They had a great time running around.” The spirited duo were met with welcoming sniffs and curious gazes from other giraffes and the Safari Park’s group of ostriches.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted an initial review of an Endangered Species Act (ESA) petition to list giraffes as Endangered. In addition, giraffes are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, and their populations have declined up to 40 percent in the last 30 years.
Visitors to Summer Safari at the Park may see the calves from the Africa Tram Safari periodically, as they acclimate to their new habitat. Summer Safari presented by Groupon offers special entertainment, food and animal encounters all season long. On Summer Safari weekends, the activities will include musical entertainment from 3 to 6 p.m.; a didgeridoo player at Walkabout Australia, a steel drum band at Thorntree Terrace and an acoustic guitarist at the Bamburi Boat Bar near Nairobi Station. Guests can also enjoy extended weekend hours, as the Safari Park will stay open until 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through July 28.
On Mondays and Tuesdays from June 10 to July 30, guests can enjoy the new Sundown Summer Safari, when the Safari Park stays open until 8 p.m. for extended fun and activities on those dates only. During Sundown Summer Safari, guests can enjoy an evening African Tram, check out a 7 p.m. Cheetah Run, experience a Bubble Show at 4 and 6 p.m., and see the exciting, all-new Wildlife Wonders show in Benbough Amphitheater at 5 pm.
At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, more than 1 million guests each year see animals in herds of mixed species, in expansive habitats. Safari tours offer savanna views of African and Asian animals, trails take visitors on treks to experience Australian and North American habitats—plus, there are opportunities for up-close encounters and unique behind-the-scenes perspectives. Known for its leadership in rhino conservation, the Safari Park is home to the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center, which is devoted to groundbreaking work to bring back the northern white rhino. As visitors discover the rare and endangered species at the Safari Park, they are directly contributing, through admission and on-grounds sales, to the efforts of San Diego Zoo Global, an international nonprofit conservation organization that works to fight extinction through recovery efforts for plants and animals worldwide. To learn more, visit sdzsafaripark.org,