Toronto Zoo welcomes birth of endangered giraffe
The Toronto Zoo's newest family member, a Masai giraffe named Baby Long Legs, was born early Tuesday morning. (Toronto Zoo)
TORONTO -- Although the Toronto Zoo may be closed due to COVID-19, the facility’s newest family member is making its presence known by way of social media.
The Toronto Zoo said that early on Tuesday, they welcomed a healthy Masai giraffe, a species that’s been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN) since 2018.
Since that announcement, the calf, which the Zoo is affectionately calling Baby Long Legs, has made appearances on Twitter, Youtube and even TikTok.
Baby Long Legs was born to Mstari, a six-year-old female giraffe, and Kiko, a seven-year-old male who moved to the Toronto Zoo from South Carolina in 2015.
“This birth is an important contribution to a genetically healthy Masai giraffe population especially as Mstari is the most genetically valuable giraffe in North America,” Toronto Zoo CEO Dolf DeJong said in a news release.
The population of Masai giraffes has dwindled in the past 30 years with more than a 50 per cent decline during that time. Right now, there are only 35,000 Masai giraffes in the wild.
“Masai giraffes are under increasing pressure due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. It is important to educate the public on their plight in the wild and do everything we can to prevent the threats they face and halt declining populations.”
And bringing Baby Long Legs into the world was a long time coming.
The zoo paired the parents based on a recommendation by the AZA Masai giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program among accredited facilities, and tracked Mstari's reproductive cycles since the summer of 2017.
From there, the lovebirds were first observed to be breeding in early and mid-January of 2019, according to the zoo. Mstari was confirmed to be in the early stages of her 15-month-long pregnancy on February 26, 2019 and the news was announced on World Giraffe Day on June 21, 2019.
Giraffe pregnancies typically range from 420-488 days in length, the zoo said, while adding that they continued to collect samples from Mstari three times a week throughout her pregnancy and after the birth, in order to add to the “global dataset of hormone levels in pregnant and postpartum.”
As a result of the birth, the Toronto Zoo has launched a new campaign to support the happy giraffe family.
The campaign, dubbed “Room to Grow”, is raising money in collaboration with the Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy to increase available space, allow better access to the giraffes as well as incorporating features to improve enrichment, educational and monitoring opportunities.
“Our Room to Grow campaign launches today, and we are excited to be working with the Toronto Zoo and our supporters to raise $70,000 to complete this important work for our growing giraffe family,” said Beth Gilhespy, Executive Director of the Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy.
Baby Long Legs joins a large family tree of giraffes born at the Toronto Zoo since the 1980s. In that time, the zoo has birthed 19 of the long-neck mammals, including Mstari and her mother, Twiga.